Brooks grew up in East Lake, attending Barrett Elementary School. As a teenager he worked in the pit crew for Hall of Fame drag-racer Bill Mullins and became a drag racer himself. After high school he took a job assembling airplane brakes in California.
Brooks returned to Birmingham in 1982 having applied to become a firefighter. He was assigned to Birmingham Fire Station No. 19 in East Lake. After three years he was promoted to Lieutenant, then to Captain five years after that. From there he was promoted to Battalion Chief, Assistant Chief of Operations, and then to Chief in November 2007.
Brooks was one of the planners of the Alabama Mutual Aid System which helps various departments work together to respond to emergencies.
- Gray, Jeremy (April 28, 2008) "Birmingham fire chief aims to improve department." Birmingham News