Hundreds of firefighters paused last month to pay silent tribute to Bob Barraclough at the Annual Apparatus Symposium of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA), an event he helped create 23 years ago.
Barraclough, the chief columnist of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment magazine, died Jan. 21 at his home in Plano, Texas, just three days before the opening of the FDSOA symposium in Orlando, Fla. He was 70, and his heart had been failing.
In 2009, Barraclough celebrated 50 years of dedication to the fire service and the fire industry by inviting friends to a party in Dallas during the annual Fire-Rescue International conference and trade show. The following month, his friend and colleague, C. Peter Jorgensen, the founder and publisher of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment, died of cancer.
During the past year, Barraclough told people close to him it was time for the next generation of firefighters to take charge at FDSOA. At Monday’s symposium opening, Janet Wilmoth, editorial director at Fire Chief magazine, praised Barraclough for his commitment to education and for his passion for putting people together to advance their knowledge and the cause of safety. She urged everyone to take that message home and create new networks for the benefit of the fire service.
Even while absent, Barraclough was still a presence at the three-day FDSOA symposium. His friendship and contributions were on the minds of many. Jimmy Faulkner of Rescue 1, who specializes in “old school” apparatus repair and training, recalled how Barraclough encouraged him to wear a tie when speaking at FDSOA and other conferences. This year Faulkner wore a tie for his one-hour presentation, which was about whether to retire apparatus or run it longer. He began by displaying his tie and explained: “Bob kept telling me, ‘Jimmy get a tie,’ and I told him, ‘You only wear a tie if someone dies.’ So Bob, this is for you.”
Barraclough, the son of a volunteer firefighter, grew up in Pennsylvania across the street from a firehouse and was a volunteer firefighter for more than 20 years. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as fire marshal on the USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
After the military, he went to work for National Foam and later took executive positions at Hale Pumps, E-ONE, Span Instruments and Class 1. In recent years he testified as an expert witness in litigation involving fire industry products and was a consultant to Rosenbauer America.
He was also a prominent member of fire service and industry organizations. In addition to playing a major role in FDSOA, he was an influential member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901 fire apparatus standard committee for more than 20 years and was a member and past president of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Association (FAMA), which honored him with its Star Achiever award in 1993. He was also on the Board of Directors of the Congressional Fire Service Institute (CFSI).
“When it comes to the fire service industry,” said CFSI Executive Director Bill Webb, “Bob would be a first-ballot inductee into the Hall of Fame.”
Barraclough was honored at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in the spring of 2004 as a recipient of The Joe Fishelson Award, which is presented annually to recognize someone who has “given back” to the fire and emergency service industry.
In recent years as his energy waned, Barraclough rode an electric scooter to help him get around the fire industry trade shows where he seemed to know everyone.
One of his favorite shows was the world’s largest, Interschutz, which is held every five years in Germany. He would return with photos to illustrate European innovations that he promoted through presentations to firefighters at venues across the country, which always included the annual FDSOA Apparatus Symposium.
In reporting his passing, FAMA said a memorial in Barraclough’s honor is planned for this spring and details would be forthcoming.
His family said the Bob Barraclough Memorial Fund was established at the Oklahoma State University School of Fire Protection. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be sent to the Oklahoma State University Foundation for the university’s Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology Program, P.O. Box 1749, Stillwater, OK, 74076-1749. Contributions may also be made online at www.osu.giving.com.
Personal notes of condolence may be sent to Mrs. Betts Barraclough, 2505 Chadbourne Drive, Plano, TX, 75023.