Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue Capt. Bob Dawson is a station officer. He is the captain charged with running the station, the engines and the rescue vehicles.
“I was a volunteer firefighter in Pennsylvania and got into it again when I moved to Florida,” recalled Dawson, 56, who works out of Station 25 on Wellington Trace.
Dawson is also a devoted family man — in more ways than one.
“I am married, for 32 years, to my lovely wife Debbie. We have two boys, Ryan who is still in high school and Rob who is older,” said Dawson about his home family. “Rob is about to become a father in late November of his own two boys. His wife is going to have identical twin sons.”
He and his wife were proud to soon become grandparents, then they found out it was to be twins. “So, we are happy about being grandparents,” he said.
Dawson is also satisfied with his chosen career.
“I think the most satisfying aspect of being a firefighter is making a difference in someone’s life to help them out — whether it’s in their time of need or just a problem they’re having,” Dawson said. “We, as firefighters, may not consider it an emergency, [but] to someone who’s calling 9-1-1 at that time, for them, it is an emergency.”
Battalion Chief Sam Eaton said that Dawson has more than 22 years of service with PBCFR, has helped with the Hazardous Incident Management Team and provided assistance in the recovery from Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys.
For his service, the Wellington Public Safety Committee recently named Dawson this year’s Wellington Top Firefighter.
“The things I am most proud of in this career, and there’s a lot to be proud of, are some of the things I’m involved with, like the South Florida Region 7 Incident Management Team and the Emergency Operations team,” Dawson said.
The Incident Management Team is the group that comes in and supports emergencies like hurricanes.
“Such as three years ago, when part of the team went to the Bahamas to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin, and last year, the team went to the Keys during the Hurricane Irma recovery,” Dawson said.
When in this role, Dawson has a very specific job to do.
“I’m the logistics section chief,” Dawson said. “My job is finding them stuff. I’m the guy who finds them things they need for the deployment.”
During the Irma campaign, Dawson was on medical leave recovering from knee surgery. Yet he came in and worked with his team. “I stayed back supporting the team, finding items they needed,” he said.
As part of the Palm Beach County Emergency Operations Team, Dawson is on hand locally whenever the need arises. “Whenever the Emergency Operations Center is activated, I report at Southern Blvd. and Military Trail,” he said.
In addition to actively volunteering in his church, Dawson volunteered in scouting when his oldest son was growing up. Now his younger son is into sports.
“There comes a time when your son gets too old, and you can’t coach your own son anymore,” he said. “But being from Pittsburgh, I’m a die-hard Steelers fan.”
Dawson’s hobbies are hunting and fishing with his sons. “My sons love camping, and anytime we take someone who has never been camping before, their maiden voyage, so to speak, is always to Lion Country Safari,” he said, referring to the KOA Campground adjacent to the world-famous drive-through wildlife park and attraction off Southern Blvd.
The campground has all the requirements of a camping facility, but it is close to home should a first-time camping group need some support from their home family.
Dawson explained that to be successful in the career of firefighting, you need to have two families.
“You have to have the support of your home family, as well as your fire-rescue family,” he said, stressing that no one can do the job alone. “They are both important.”
Spending time at the station adds a level of familiarity not found in other lines of work.
“We spend one-third of our lives with our fire-rescue family,” said Dawson, who added that he knows the members of his fire-rescue family every bit as well as he knows the biological members of his own family. “I know their likes, their dislikes and their quirks, and I know I can count on their support.”