Firehouse announced that Robert “Butch” Cobb will be inducted into the Firehouse Hall of Fame at Firehouse Expo in Columbus, OH, on Sept. 28, 2022. Cobb, who retired from the Jersey City Fire Department after a 34-year career, entered the fire service through a volunteer fire department, and finished his fire service career with the Insurance Services Office (ISO).
“Being selected for the Firehouse Hall of Fame is a humbling and gratifying event,” Cobb said. “It is rewarding that my efforts to make firefighting safer has been appreciated and will persevere. Firehouse Magazine gave me my first opportunity to write about my fireground experiences and then to share my passion for hands-on training programs in conferences across the country.”
“Butch has played a role in Firehouse’s mission to educate and train the fire service for more than three decades in numerous capacities,” said Firehouse Editor-in-Chief Peter Matthews. “Butch’s ability to share his experiences from firefighting and fire safety to ISO grading via Firehouse has undoubtedly saved countless lives and improved fire departments.”
“I began assisting Editor-in-Chief Harvey Eisner at Firehouse Expo 1995. He convinced me to write my first article, ‘Expect the Unexpected,’ over 25 years ago.”
With encouragement, Cobb began sharing his training experiences with other firefighters through articles and speaking or conducting hands-on training at Firehouse conferences. He was a member of the Firehouse Heroism and Valor Awards selection committee for many years.
Cobb was instrumental in the initial startup of Firehouse World in San Diego, attending the inaugural meetings with San Diego-area firefighters. In 2003, Cobb was appointed Hands-on Training Coordinator for the Firehouse Expo and Firehouse World. The next year, he was named Program Coordinator for “Firehouse on The Road,” a series of training seminars that began in Norfolk, VA.
Cobb served in the U.S. Army from 1967-1970, including tours in Vietnam in 1968-1969.
He joined the Dumont, NJ, Volunteer Fire Department from 1969-1979, serving as chief of department in 1978. He was also a member of Company 4 of the West Milford Township, NJ, Volunteer Fire Department from 1982-1990, including the role of chief of department in 1989. He entered the career fire service in 1972, serving with the Weehawken, NJ, Fire Department.
In 1975, he joined the Jersey City, NJ, Fire Department and served as a firefighter and captain in some of the busiest units, including Engine 20, Engine 22, Ladder 5, and Rescue 1.
When he was promoted to battalion chief, he was assigned to command the 2nd Battalion. As deputy chief, he was assigned to chief of operations, overseeing daily field operations. He also held the positions of chief of training, citywide tour commander, and deputy coordinator of office of emergency management and homeland security.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Cobb responded along with other Jersey City resources to the terror attacks at the World Trade Center. Cobb was asked to respond at the chief's request due to his previous work with members of the department, and spent hours assisting injured firefighters, searching the site after the collapses and working as command was reestablished.
In 2009, Cobb retired from Jersey City and joined ISO as director of Community Hazard Mitigation and was their key spokesperson to the nation’s fire service. A year later, he was promoted to national director, responsible for directing ISO’s public fire protection information-gathering and analysis process, including all field operations.
As chairperson of the ISO project team, he was responsible for revising and updating the fire suppression rating schedule, a manual containing the criteria ISO uses to review fire prevention and suppression capabilities of individual communities. During his tenure, he met with many states fire chiefs’ associations, fire marshals other state fire officials asking for recommendations on improving the ISO grading process.
In 2000, Cobb and FDNY Firefighter Mickey Conboy developed the Worcester 6 Safety & Survival Seminars, along with IAFF Local 1009. The six-year program raised funds for the families of the firefighters who died in the Worcester Cold Storage warehouse. In collaboration with Los Angeles County deputy chief’s John Trip and Mike Bryant, he developed the East Meets West Conference in 2003. He joined FDNY Firefighter Nick Giordano to create the Charleston 9 Fire Safety Seminar that donated all proceeds to the families of the nine firefighters killed in the Super Sofa fire.
Cobb has received many accolades, including the Western Fire Chiefs Association Presidents Award; a Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Contributions in the field of drug enforcement by the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Department of Justice, and the Phoenix Fire Department Salute to Excellence Award.
“I learned through my many years of experience that training, especially hands-on training, saves lives,” Cobb said. "Throughout my career, I encouraged all firefighters to continue training from day one to your last day on the job. ‘Train Like Your Life Depends on It.’
“I’m hoping that the next generation will see the importance and value of training and sharing our experiences. I think it’s important that past generations hand down experiences as a foundation for knowledge that will be needed to solve firefighting issues in the future. To all the probies out there, find your passion, get good at it, then write about,” Cobb said.
Cobb joins the following Firehouse Hall of Fame inductees:
- Rich Adams
- Steve Austin
- Francis L. Brannigan
- Alan Brunacini
- Hal Bruno
- Robert Burke
- Dr. Harry Carter
- Dennis Compton
- Vincent Dunn
- Harvey Eisner
- Barry Furey
- Paul F. Hashagen
- John Norman
- John Salka
- Tom Shand
- Dennis Smith
- James Smith
- Charles Werner
- Mike Wilbur