For three decades Bob Preston has worked tirelessly to keep the people of Staffordshire safe – after making a career change he never dreamed would take him to even greater heights.
I’m proud to have made a difference within our communities and our service
This week the 55-year-old retired from his role as Group Manager with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) having joined up when he swapped his job fitting roof tiles and slates to be a frontline firefighter.
And Bob has paid tribute to his colleagues from his time with the service who he says has stopped him from ever dreaming of moving on.
He said: “There are many reasons I have stayed for so long – and one of the main reasons is because of who we are as a service and the culture there is here. I have worked with some absolutely fantastic people. The team ethos and culture has kept me here.”
On leaving school the father-of-three went on a Youth Training Scheme (YTS) focused on construction and bricklaying before landing an apprenticeship in fitting roof tiles and slates.
He said: “I had moved through different roles with the company I was working for. I decided I needed a career change and I saw an advert in the newspaper about the fire service recruiting. I wanted progression and to be able to develop myself and so I went for it.”
In 1991, Bob joined the service and was posted at Stafford where he would go on to become a Crew Manager. Over the coming years he went on to be temporary Watch Manager at Cannock before taking on permanent Watch Manager positions in Hanley and Longton. From being a Watch Manager at Longton, Bob’s next stop was Station Manager within Stafford Area Command.
In 2009, he was Station Manager in the emergency response team (ERT) then moving onto Station Manager within South Staffordshire and then project coordinator in the shared fire control before a return to ERT beckoned.
His growing experience saw Bob, who lives in South Staffordshire, become Corporate Safety Plan Manager before moving to Group Manager and becoming Head of Learning and Development for the service.
He said: “I started that role in the beginning of 2017 and in November last year I was asked to head up the Covid-19 response to ensure we were compliant, safe, and everyone understood what was expected of them.”
During his time as a firefighter Bob responded to a number of incidents he admits he will never forget including a number of serious road traffic collisions and rescues. He was also on the scene of a train crash in Stafford back in 1996 where one train derailed before another collided with a section of it.
Bob, who retired on Monday, says he will now "recharge his batteries" before deciding what retirement holds. He said: “I will be taking a few months off! I enjoy landscape photography so the camera will be coming out and I’ll be doing some cycling and getting out into the fresh air.
“I have had time to reflect on what I am most proud of from my time with the fire service – and I would say I’m proud to have made a difference within our communities and our service. I have had the privilege of being told by colleagues that I have been influential to people’s lives in the service through mentoring, coaching, supporting and the standards I have set.
“I have worked with some brilliant people.”
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Rob Barber praised Bob’s contribution. He said: “Bob has been a dedicated member of Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service for 30 years and I have had the pleasure of working with him in a number of roles.
“His high work ethic and commitment to whatever role he has been performing has been inspiring and I know that he has been a very credible, well-liked officer that has delivered some significant outcomes for the communities of Staffordshire.
“Bob is one of those officers that others can learn a great deal from. We will miss him within the service but wish him and his family all the very best for the future. Thank you Bob for your service.”
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