Robbie Robertson Remembered as 'Treasure Trove of Fire Service History'

James C. "Robbie" Robertson, 84, traveled across the country promoting fire prevention.


In the seventh edition, Robertson addressed code change recommendations as a result of the tragic events of 9/11, fire safety research with continuing application, and a case study of a very successful fire safety program.

Retired Montgomery County, Md. Deputy Chief Mike Love, who has been working with Robertson on the latest book, said it’s been an honor. “He was so dedicated to fire education, and I was so impressed with his knowledge and outreach…”

Love said his foundation for public education came from Robertson.

“He was involved in so many projects. He was incredible. And, there always so many stories…”

Bill Kehoe remembered Robertson for his longtime involvement in various organizations including the IFE, of which he was a charter member.

In 2012, Robertson became the 10th person in the world to be awarded the designation of ‘Companion Fellow’ by the IFE. He received the honor in Stillwater, OK. during the 75th anniversary of the School of Fire Protection and Safety.

Taking a breather was never on his list, colleagues agreed.

As the NFPA’s first -- and for many years, the only -- regional representative, he hop-scotched across most all of North America and into Canada.  Even after others were appointed, he continued to carry on important work for many presidents.

When he was advised by his doctor that he shouldn’t fly, his travels didn’t ease up. He simply drove or took the train.

In addition to spreading the word about fire prevention and code enforcement, Robertson was very involved in the Fellowship of  Christian Firefighters.

Colleagues say Robertson was the king of story-telling, and kept them amazed for hours on end. He remembered dates, events and incidents with ease.

Unfortunately, they say, their efforts to film or record his fire service stories didn’t work. As soon as the "on" button was pushed, he froze.

Ken Farmer, a fellow North Carolina native, said he was honored to call Robertson a friend.

“I was so fortunate to get to know Robbie, and have him stay at my house on many occasions. I admired him for a long time for his work, never knowing I’d get close to him.”

An icon and a role model were among the descriptions friends used.

Understanding the importance of protecting the written word of the fire service, Robertson pushed and helped organize the National Fire Heritage Center (NFHC).

“He was a wealth of information. He could remember important dates, people and events. He was just a joy to be around,” said Wayne Powell.

As the executive director of the NFHC, Powell said he’s been in contact with people from all over the world the past few days. “People are sad. They know we've lost a terrific man, a champion of not only the fire service, but fire prevention.”

Ron Coleman, president of the NFHC, said Robertson clearly understood the importance of preserving history. He noted that he and the others will carry on the mission that was so dear to him.

“Robbie was a walking, talking history book,” he said with a laugh adding that many people across the world would be able to share a Robbie story or two.

Coleman recalled what the Secretary of War said announcing the death of President Lincoln: "He now belongs to the ages."