Local fire chief reflects on lifetime of service on day of retirement

Local News

WINNEBAGO, Ill. (WTVO) ─ A Rockford area man will soon wrap up more than two decades as a local fire chief, but his service goes much further than that.

He is also a dad serving his family and an Army Colonel, serving his country.

“It’s been a great fit,” said retiring Win-Bur-Sew Fire Chief Rob Martin.

That is how Rob Martin describes his nearly four decades with the Win-Bur-Sew Fire Department. He has served 37 years, 23 of those as Chief. He joined the department in 1982 as a volunteer.

“[I] Just graduated from high school, had always wanted to give back and help people and do different things in the community,” said Martin. “The community’s always been very supportive always to its citizenry.”

That sense of service is what inspired him to become a firefighter. It also led him to an almost three decade career in the U.S. Army.

“A lot of my family members had been in World War II. They were in the military,” said Martin. “And again, I just wanted to give back. Try to help out. Serve my country and my community.”

Rob deployed four times.

“Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa,” Martin recalled. “Most of the, most of the “hot spots.””

The time away from home was tough.

“That can be very demanding,” said Martin. “And I’ve had an extremely supportive family that’s backed me and I’ve had to obviously leave.

Homecomings were memorable. In 2010, Rob surprised his daughter Shelby at Keith Country Day School. Her birthday wish was to have her daddy home for her birthday. Rob and his wife Lucy made it happen.

Another time home, Rob got recognition he deserved from his community during a Zac Brown Band concert in Rockford.

He retired from the Army in 2015 as a Lieutenant Colonel, but Rob stayed on as Win-Bur-Sew Chief, answering all kinds of calls.

“Middle of the night, middle of the day, Christmas, holidays, whatever, birthdays, who knows, [because] it never stops,” said Martin. He gets emotional when he talks about protecting the community he loves. “It was an honor.”

He says he will miss the people most.

“We’ve got a great team here,” Martin said. “Wonderful people, working hard every day, every night, doing these calls, risking their lives to help their fellow man.”

Rob’s last day was Wednesday, January 15th.

He’s not going far He plans to take a much deserved break for a few months, but he will stay active with the department as a volunteer.

He also wants to learn how to ice fish. Rob has never done it, but he got a bunch of gear as a “going away” gift.

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