Prince George’s County Marine Fire Rescue volunteer James “Doc” Brooks gave his life doing what he loved — serving others, said his friend and associate, Volunteer Deputy Chief Janet Demeritt.
“He deeply loved being a volunteer. That truly was his life,” Demeritt said.
Brooks, a Camp Springs resident, died Jan. 15, a week after suffering a heart attack while securing equipment at the Marine Fire Rescue station in Fort Washington against an oncoming winter storm.
Brooks will be honored Friday during a Fallen Heroes Day remembrance in Timonium.
Marine Fire Rescue provides marine rescue and recovery, watercraft assistance and underwater investigation services.
On Jan. 7, some of the coldest temperatures on record swept through the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region, brought in by southward winds from the North Polar Vortex.
“The boats had to be checked on, because of the winds,” Demeritt said. “Some of our equipment is sensitive to extreme temperatures, and there was a need to do emergency winter preparations.”
Demeritt said Brooks suffered a heart attack while winterizing the station’s equipment. He was rushed to an area hospital, but died a week later.
“He was a man whose dedication and passion carried him right up to the very end,” Demeritt said.
Michael Alfieri, public information officer with the Prince George’s County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, based in Landover Hills, said he knew Brooks for over 10 years.
“He was very passionate about his work, very detailed-oriented, very dedicated to making sure everything was in order, which is why he went down to secure things before that storm hit,” Alfieri said. “He was definitely the kind of guy you’d want on your team.”
Brooks joined Marine Fire Rescue as a volunteer after retiring from the U.S. Navy in 1994. During his 20 years in the service, he served in a variety of capacities, including serving as a board member, a fire lieutenant, and EMT lieutenant and an engineer.
“There was nothing about a boat he couldn’t fix,” Demeritt said.
Brooks will be honored along with three other fallen servicemen during the 29th Annual Fallen Heroes Day remembrance, held at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium.
John “Jack” Mitchell IV, president of Dulaney Valley, said the tradition of recognizing fallen heroes began with the funeral home’s previous owners in 1986.
Mitchell’s family has owned the funeral home since 2007 and continued the tradition.
“During the event, hundreds and hundreds of people gather — police, firefighters, officials, even the governor — to make a statement about how much we appreciate and sympathize with the families for all they have lost and ultimately, to recognize the awesome sacrifice their loved ones have made,” Mitchell said.