Badass of the Week.

Ryan Cooper

As much as I love to write about hardcore, ball-shattering military commanders who completely flipped out and slaughtered tens of thousands of enemy combatants using nothing more than a claw hammer, a loaf of incredibly-stale French bread, and their own uncontrollable blood rage, it definitely bears mentioning that pretty much every human being on the face of the planet universally recognizes the fact that firefighters are unequivocally some of the greatest (and toughest) heroes alive.  Seriously, have you ever heard anyone ever say something like, "I don't know man, firefighters are kind of pussies?"  Hell no!  That's because even though these guys don't spend their days punching fugitives' faces off, everybody knows that when the shit hits the fan and then spontaneously combusts into a massive fireball, these are the folks who are going to swoop in, plow through your front yard in a bright red truck, smash your window out with an awesome giant ladder, and save you from a painful, Joan of Arc-style demise.

I suppose it's probably inaccurate to say that firefighters "kick ass", since the main difference between firefighters and Vikings is that when you see a firefighter coming after you with a giant axe you generally feel relieved rather than terrified (that's usually a good thing), but the fact remains that these are the men and women who show up at the scene of pretty horrific shit, kick in the door with their giant fire-proof boots, and run screaming into a raging inferno of flaming to and save innocent people from pretty nasty cases of fatal smoke inhalation and/or death by burning.  Sure, rescuing people from crushed automobiles, wrenching idiot swimmers from riptides, and plucking frightened housecats out of neighborhood trees doesn't always make for as interesting a story as the afore-mentioned master of baguette-related homicide, but nobody can deny the fact that while any dumbass with a set of matches and a can of lighter fluid can start a fire, it takes real cast-iron guts and ball-busting courage to run into a burning building, throw a bunch of injured and dying people out the window, escape with your life, and then turn around and fight the towering, out-of-control Conflagration of Death armed with nothing more than an oversized rubber hose and a thin plexiglass face shield.

Plus, I have it on pretty good authority that most women think that firefighters are pretty hot, and I'm not just talking about the dudes who are standing in the middle of these burning buildings.  This may not have any bearing on anything, but I thought I'd throw that out there anyways, because it's my unsubstantiated assumption that firemen probably have little to no trouble meeting girls.  I mean, there just aren't a whole lot of professions out there that can make you instantly attractive simply by going to work, so when you do come across something like that it's generally worth noting.

Just another day on the job.

It was July 10, 2007, when Florida Firefighter Ryan Cooper came back home from a tough day on the job.  This hard-working fireslayer was just hanging out, getting ready to chill on the couch, crack open a cold one, and watch some baseball, when all of a sudden he heard a plane swooping in low over the tops of the trees above his neighborhood.  Cooper's heart jumped a beat as he ran to the window, looked outside, and saw a twin-engine Cessna plow right into two houses down the street from him.

Ryan Cooper, being the hardass, fearless firefighter that he was, didn't even blink.  He called 911, ran to his truck, threw on his firefighter's coat, and sprinted over to the scene of the accident, ready and willing to start yanking people out of the rubble like a one-man Jaws of Life running amok amidst a twenty-car pileup like the one at the end of the Blues Brothers - and he wasn't going to be slowed down by a little thing like burning jet fuel or insane temperatures hot enough to flash-fry a Thanksgiving Day turkey in five minutes or less.

When Ryan got over to his neighbor's house, he found a lady standing outside screaming hysterically that her husband and ten year-old son were still stuck inside the smoke-filled burning building.  Cooper took one look inside and then charged balls-out into the raging inferno without even giving a shit.  This dude didn't even have a breathing mask or oxygen tank, but he just unhesitatingly sped into the middle of a giant fireball completely surrounded by burning jet fuel, smashed plane debris, and thick black smoke.  This stone-cold, borderline-insane hardass with no apparent sense of self-preservation smashed through the door, ran in, and grabbed the boy from the clutches of certain death.  He carried the kid outside to safety, then turned around and went BACK into the burning building looking for the husband.  After picking his way through the smoke and fire, surrounded by a flaming structure that could have collapsed at any moment, he found the dad lying face-down on the carpet, almost completely obscured by nearly-impenetrable clouds of gray-black smoke.  Ryan Cooper was a badass firefighter with unmeltable ice water in his veins, though, and he'd spent his entire professional career training for shit like this.  He leaned over, his lungs already full of enough toxic fumes to asphyxiate most inanimate objects, hoisted this guy up onto his shoulders, and hauled the unconscious dude to safety outside.

Now, saving two people from a fiery death with nothing more than your bare hands and a set of flame-retardant nuts is something that most regular humans will never accomplish in their entire lives, but for Ryan Cooper it wasn't even enough life-threatening adventure for one afternoon.  Instead, this crazy fire-breathing maniac ran next door and busted into the OTHER house that had been hit by the airplane, desperately in search of more survivors.  He got through a couple of rooms, searched around, and didn't see or hear anybody, so he fought his way back outside to safety.  Once he got out, however, a neighbor said that she was certain more people were trapped inside, so Ryan Effing Cooper made his fourth trip into a burning building without any kind of supplemental oxygen.  He couldn't get past the flames and smoke that had overtaken the building, however, and realizing that he didn't have much time left before he lost consciousness he reluctantly turned back, barely escaping with his life moments before the entire house went up in flames.

Well apparently being half-dead from the thick black layer of poisonous smoke now coating the walls of his lungs STILL wasn't enough to stop Ryan Cooper from doing his job, because once he emerged from Fiery Inferno of Death #2, he went back to the people he had saved from the first house and started giving them emergency first aid, stabilizing them to the point where they could be safely transported to a local area hospital.  His work finally done, he collapsed and was taken to the ER, where he was then treated for excessive smoke inhalation and a near-terminal case of badassitude.

I honestly can't think of any job I've ever had that I would perform voluntarily outside of the regular nine-to-five workday, but firefighters are just a different breed of individual.  I guess when saving lives is your job it gives you a career ambition that far surpasses that of your typical corporate wage slave.  Ryan, and the people he saved, all made full recoveries and lived to tell the tale.  For his insane valor, this seemingly fire-proof madman also received numerous awards and honors from societies that give awards to heroes, and went on the Today Show to talk to Katie Couric or Ryan Seacrest or whoever the hell it is that hosts the Today Show.  Oh, and he also got a cup in his honor at Firehouse Subs, which is a place that makes pretty badass sandwiches.

Despite all the accolades, in true self-effacing tough guy fashion, Ryan maintains that he was just doing his job, and that anybody else in his position would have done the same.  Personally, I kind of doubt that's the case.

"Everybody that goes to work, every 24 hours at every fire station across the country, it's their job to do it."

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