Next time you hear the whir of a Federal Q siren, think of SOB…. “Sweet Old Bob” as he affectionately called himself and often signed emails and notes. The wail of the siren was on his home answering machine, a testament to his passion for firefighting and all things related to apparatus.
The fire service has lost a luminary with the passing of Robert J. Barraclough, 70 of Plano, Texas, a 51-year veteran of the fire service. He died at his home on Friday, Jan. 21, after a period of declining health. No services have been planned as of yet, but a spring memorial service is being contemplated.
Mr. Barraclough made his mark on the fire service in many different ways during his career. He was a lecturer, a consultant, an industry leader, an apparatus expert who often testified in court cases, a teacher, a firefighter and a friend to all in the greater “brotherhood.” In 2009, Bob celebrated his 50th year in the fire service with a party in Dallas.
A native of Pennsylvania, Bob started in the fire service at a tender age in a day when open-cab trucks were the norm. He later enlisted in the Navy and served as fire marshal on the USS Enterprise. He was a volunteer firefighter for 25 years and spent his professional career in a wide variety of fire related industries. Among the companies he worked for are Hale Products, a pump maker headquartered in Pennsylvania, E-ONE, an apparatus builder in Florida, Span Instruments, a gauge maker in Texas and its successor, Class 1, with headquarters in Florida.
He also worked for National Foam and a variety of other related companies, most recently as a consultant for Rosenbauer America, based in South Dakota.
As a long-time member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) committee on apparatus, he was instrumental in the formation of many standards. One of his most recent crusades was the standard for placing high-visibility striping on the back of apparatus to keep firefighters safe on scenes. He was always trying to promote safety and efficiency in his many written articles in fire service publications. He also was a past president of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Association and served on the Congressional Fire Service Institute’s board of directors.
His involvement with the Fire Department Safety Officers Association was key in the annual apparatus symposium held in Florida which will convene next week for the 23rd time.
Bob, a veteran of the trade show circuit, was easy to spot in his electric mobility scooter, usually adorned with fire memorabilia and trinkets. More than a few apparatus accessory makers had threatened to outfit them with lights and sirens.
More recently, Bob could be seen motoring about with one of his three grandchildren pointing out the finer details of the “big red trucks,” or BRTs, as he would call them. His wife, Betts, would often accompany him as his well as three children occasionally, all of whom survive him.
Upon his retirement from the show lecture circuit last summer, Firehouse Editor-in-Chief Harvey Eisner called Bob, a “superstar” among the people most influential in the fire service.
Eisner spoke for many in the fire service when he said: “"Thank you very much for your contributions over the years.”
Bob often praised good ideas and well designed apparatus and jobs well done with a trademarked “tip-of-the-helmet” quote he wove into many of his stories.
It’s time for a grateful fire service to offer the same back to a faithful servant.
In lieu of flowers, the Barraclough family has established a memorial fund and asks that contributions be made to the Oklahoma State University Foundation, Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology Program; Bob Barraclough Memorial Fund (#20-03700) P.O. Box 1749 Stillwater, OK 74076-1749, or by going to online at www.OSUgiving.com.