Fire and Rescue NSW farewells 50-year firefighting veteran - Tamworth
Published: 16 Mar 2023 06:33am
Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) veteran Robert Eckersley AFSM has hung up his firefighting helmet for the last time, 50 years to the day since he first started the job.
Born and raised in Tamworth, in the state’s north-west, Rob’s passion for firefighting first sparked when he was just eight years old and never wavered.
He joined his local brigade in an on-call capacity on 15 March 1973 after clearing his final employment hurdle – parting ways with his ‘mullet’, a hairstyle which was ‘all the rage’ at the time.
Almost every day since, Rob has balanced his family life and the demands of his full-time carpentry career with regular emergency callouts.
Throughout his time as a firefighter he has attended thousands of incidents including major fires, motor vehicle accidents and rescues, at all hours of the day and night.
He has also witnessed significant improvements in equipment, technology and welfare support.
Rob admits although he’s always been hard-working and community-minded, he never imagined he’d stick with his firefighting job for as long as he has.
However, it’s the people and culture within FRNSW which he says has kept him motivated.
“Our brigade has always had each other’s backs, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we have worked to those,” Rob said.
“I will miss the job… firefighting is in my blood.”
Aside from his operational commitments, Rob has been involved with the Firefighter Championships since 1974 and has more recently helped communicate fire safety messages through his creation of model fire trucks.
Rob’s contributions to FRNSW and his community have been recognised with almost a dozen major awards, most notably the Australian Fire Service Medal in 2003.
FRNSW Deputy Commissioner – Field Operations Jeremy Fewtrell said Rob’s commitment to firefighting is extraordinary and will undoubtedly inspire future generations of firefighters.
“Rob has always put others before himself, making himself available at a moment’s notice to attend emergencies and reassure those affected by them,” Deputy Commissioner Fewtrell said.
“I thank him for his contributions and wish him well for this next chapter of his life.”
Rob’s wife Lorraine has been with him every step of the firefighting journey and says their family has made wonderful friends within the industry.
“It’s just like one big family… if you ever need anything or you’re in trouble anywhere, you know you’ve got somebody to call upon,” Lorraine said.
Rob has also enjoyed the support of daughters Lauren and Renee, and employers who’ve always allowed him to ‘down tools’ to attend fire calls.
He now plans to spend more time with family, holidaying around Australia.
_EDITOR'S NOTE: _Additional photos of Rob, including from his 'march out' event, are available via the FRNSW website.
Updated: 16 Mar 2023 06:37am
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