What makes a firefighter?
Is it a willingness to put on the suit, haul the heavy equipment, and walk yourself into a flurry of flames? Is it having the fortitude to serve your community and protect it in the case of such an emergency? Or is it having the skills to cooperate and share a common bond with a group of people who all have the same willingness to engage in such activity?
The truth is, it’s all three and much, much more.
Bob Reid of Outlook has carried those qualities in his four-plus decades with the Outlook Fire Department. To those that know him best, he’s undoubtedly been the rock of the department, the proverbial glue that’s held things altogether at times. He’s been a part of many, many calls over the years – a potent mixture for any firefighter comprised of good calls where things could’ve gotten much worse, and bad calls where things indeed went very, very wrong.
It’s the kind of role that one voluntarily puts themselves in, and over time you are sure to see a lot of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
But all things come to an end.
Bob has decided to call it a career with the Outlook Fire Department after 47 straight years.
“I just feel spent,” said Reid, speaking with The Outlook. “I can’t do it any longer, so I feel that I had to quit. I don’t know about having any kind of legacy, but I’ve got some issues and so I felt I couldn’t do my job properly.”
Bob’s history with the fire crew in town goes back a long way, extending to the days of his youth. The allure of the big red fire truck was too much for the young Reid back then, and it ultimately turned into virtually a lifetime of service.
“Back in those days, everybody chased the fire truck as soon as the siren went off,” he said. “I was no different. One day, the chief came up to me and asked, ‘Can you drive a truck?’ and I said, ‘Yeah’. I was 16 when that happened, and that was the first time I was on the fire department. Then I moved away and came back, and I joined back up again in ’73. I was on the department from 16 to 19, so on it for three years at that point. Probably closer to 50 years when you put it all together!”
Despite the bad calls that any fire crew can find themselves in, what makes the bad ones tolerable is having a top-notch group of firefighters, and Outlook’s crew is exactly that in Bob’s eyes.
“There’s been lots of them,” said Reid, asked about calls that stood out. “You always remember the bad ones, and over time you see a fair share of them that you don’t like to see, but it happens. The crew really comes together every time, we’ve got a hell of a good fire department in town here.”
A willingness to put the needs of a community before your own is just one of the traits that make a good firefighter, in Reid’s view.
“I think it’s the willingness to donate their time to something that’s worthwhile,” he said. “You’ve got to be a bit athletic because it’s not easy work, it’s a lot of physical work and so you’ve got to be in good shape. I suppose part of it is mental too. You’ve got to want to do your bit for the good of the community. You’re not doing it to get rich, you’re just doing your job. If you didn’t have that, you wouldn’t have anything. You’ve got to have volunteers in small towns, or you don’t have small towns!”
Although he’s hanging up his helmet, Reid knows the current Outlook crew will be just fine.
“The crew is in really good hands today or else I wouldn’t be leaving!” Bob laughed.
The Town of Outlook recently announced that plans are moving forward on a new fire hall, and it’s a project that Bob says is long overdue for the fire department, which has had to adapt to its current space for too long.
“It’s about time and it’s well overdue,” said Bob. “We’ve been cramped in that fire hall ever since it was built basically, and when it was first built it was state of the art for us. We don’t have the room for all of our equipment, it’s scattered all over town.”
What will Bob miss most about the department? For him, it’s the camaraderie between all the guys that help make it a quality crew. There’s a kinship between you and your fellow firefighting brethren, one that helps make all the calls worthwhile over the years.
“Well, it’s a bunch of guys getting together and getting along together, doing their thing,” said Reid. “It’s sort of a social thing, sort of like going to a Kinsmen meeting or whatever. If you didn’t have that, you wouldn’t have a fire department!”