Wheaton Fire’s Bob Lombard honored for 50 years as chief
November 9, 2016
This weekend, Wheaton and the surrounding communities got together to celebrate the accomplishments of a prolific figurehead for the Wheaton Fire Department. This year, Chief Bob Lombard marks his 50th year as chief of the district and 60th year fighting fires for the department.
Bob said, “I decided to join when I was 18, just out of high school and I joined the fire department. Then, ten years of that and the last 50, I’ve been chief.” Lombard graduated in 1957 from Wheaton High School.
To those who know Bob, whether they volunteer with the department or just know him through the community, he is an awe-inspiring man, always leading, just as a chief should do. His son Lindy Lombard aid he stepped in to volunteer because of seeing his dad in that role. He said, “I watched my dad volunteer all of his time and service to the community. It was what I saw in my dad and others around town, and I thought, I want to continue this myself. I grew up watching him and hope to continue until the day I die.”
When Bob began with the department, the district was run by dues paid by members in the community. Over time, that changed. Citizens voted to change to a protection district, funded by tax dollars. While it’s easier to get the training and equipment Bob insists his volunteers have, it’s still not simple.
Larry Prewitt, a volunteer with the department form 1981 to 1996 and current chairman of the fire protection board, said training was always paramount to Bob’s vision and operation. He said, “He stresses training, training, training, and there are hundreds of classes out there to go to and now that I’m on the board, I’m following his footsteps. I want the guys to do the training and learn the trucks and the equipment so it’s second hand to do it.”
When the department operated through dues paid, it was more of a challenge, but Bob never let people’s dues impact whether or not he would help them. Prewitt said, “You could have a dime or be a millionaire and he’d fight the fire just the same.”
What has fueled Bob’s fire for a number of years was that dedication to the community. Lindy said, “It wasn’t like we checked to see if someone paid their dues before we fought their fire.”
He added, “The dedication he has to the people of the community to protect and serve them is unbelievable. I heard that from the guys on there now and former volunteers, and that’s what I’ve learned. The reason I’ll stay with it, it’s seeing the sacrifice he has made for our community to protect and serve.”
Lindy’s two sons, Stuart and Taylor, both volunteer as well. It’s a family tradition that started top down with Bob.
Stuart said, “I really think its something we’ve been born into. It’s ingrained in our DNA. It’s a natural thing, we haven’t really ever thought about it. It’s what you do.
“It’s selfless dedication to the community and helping anyone in need. It doesn’t matter their race or ethnicity. Nothing matters other than they are in distress and they need help and that’s what you do.”
He added, “He’s been a good role model. He helps people. I’ve never heard him say a negative word about responding to a fire or a medical emergency. He’s never once complained about it. He doesn’t even think. He goes and does it and gets the job done, no matter what.”
Taylor said, “He’s my biggest role model. He would do anything for anybody my whole life. I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
Bob has seen the station acquire their first new fire truck in 2005 through a FEMA grant. He’s seen the district barely make it to being funded by taxes so the volunteers can be trained. He stepped up with Lindy in the 70’s by becoming EMT-certified so they could volunteer with the ambulance service back when it was run by McQueen Funeral Home. There have been many changes, but one thing hasn’t changed in all that time: Bob’s presence in the department and the community.
Steve DeCocq has volunteered with Wheaton Fire for 24 years. He said, “He’d be the first guy there and work as hard or harder than everybody at the scene. Him, being on the front line, he always seemed to make it work. Get in and get it done.”
Lindy added, “I promise you, if we had a structure fire today, and it was him and one other person, it still wouldn’t bother him to grab the hose and go into the house.”
As far as stepping down from his post? Bob said he isn’t there yet. He said, “There is still a lot to do. I would like to see a new station before that.”
Bob’s son Lindy, both of his grandsons, Stuart and Taylor, all work in the service field, helping people. The giving heart of service was passed on through the generations. Lindy has been volunteering with Wheaton Fire Department for 40 years, Stuart for 17 years and Taylor for 7 years. Stuart is also a dispatcher with Barry County E9-1-1 and a reserve deputy with the Barry County Sheriff’s Department. Taylor is a Barry County Sheriff’s Deputy.
Lindy said that spirit from his father has passed down through himself and his sons. He said, “He is definitely my hero.”