First dad, now son; year's top firefighter
By Kimberly K. Fu/Staff Writer / thereporter.com
Article Launched: 02/11/2007 07:32:57 AM PST
Ever been so surprised that you were left virtually speechless?
That's the experience Vacaville's Gary Robinson Jr. had late last
month when he arrived, tired after a long shift of firefighting,
at the annual Vacaville Fire Protection District awards banquet
and was named Firefighter of the Year for 2006.
(Brad Zweerink/The Reporter )
"I didn't even know I was nominated," he said recently. "It's
been hard to take in. Still, it's truly a great honor."
A further honor, the 37-year-old said, was that his father was
a previous recipient of the award.
Back in 2003, Gary Robinson Sr., the department's deputy chief,
had snagged top firefighter status.
Gary Sr., it seems, played an integral role in the younger
Robinson's career path.
As a child, Gary Jr. watched his dad work his magic as a
firefighter. He became interested in the work and later seesawed
between joining up with Vacaville District or becoming an
"I thought I could do both," Gary Jr. said.
But fate stepped in and, in 1983, he became a junior
firefighter with the district team. Upon his high school
graduation in 1988, he was hired on as a paid firefighter.
Following his two-year term, he continued as a volunteer. He later
moved over to a Bureau of Land Management crew in Susanville,
where he stayed for 11 years.
"We got to go all over the U.S.," he said, explaining that he
loved the gig fighting wildland fires. He later left at the rank
Longing to return home, he accepted a post with the Vacaville
Fire Department and moved with his wife, and daughter, now 9, back
to Vacaville. He is now in his seventh year with the city,
currently as a firefighter engineer.
He also returned to his Vaca District roots, and currently
holds a captain rank with the department.
And, his father is still a driving influence in his life.
"I learned from my dad to just be an honest and respectful guy
because that's how he is," the younger Robinson said. "You take
care of the guys around you and they take care of you."
Chief Howard Wood described Gary Jr. as a dedicated firefighter
with a good personality who "grew up in our family."
He apparently was chosen as Firefighter of the Year for those
traits and more. His expertise in wildland firefighting and
willingness to share it gave him an edge over the other nominees.
"He was heavy in doing a lot of extra training after hours,"
Wood said. "It's above and beyond what he has to do."
Gary Jr. said he enjoys sharing his knowledge with others and
voluntarily took the lead on training the other firefighters. The
outcome, he said, is a team well-equipped to deal with anything
"I don't know it all, but I know enough to train people how to
do (certain procedures) safely," he said.
With his guidance in the last year, his peers learned a
firefighting technique requiring the use of chainsaws.
"Now we are all state-certified for chainsaw-level
firefighting," Wood said.
Aside from his firefighting experience, the honoree has
numerous certifications - including one up to the rank of strike
team leader in wildland firefighting. He also helps out with Dixon
High School's Regional Occupational Program, through the Dixon
The firefighter plans many more years in the business, simply
because he's still happy doing what he's doing. Each day is a new
day, with unexpected challenges, moments of fun and opportunities
to help people.
"It's just the excitement," he emphasized. "You don't know
what's gonna come across."
Kimberly K. Fu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.