"We had been a great department, well managed and well respected," Robertson says with a shudder in his voice. "For us to watch that be dismantled, to have the heart and soul ripped out of the department, is just a horrible tragedy."
When Robertson speaks of the department's heart and soul, he means it. "You get a whole new extended family when you join the fire department," he explains. "You become closer than cousins. You work a twenty-four-hour shift, and every day all day you're elbow-to-elbow washing the trucks and preparing the meals.
Not that everything is touchy feely. "I found out very quickly that there's a certain way you do things in the fire department, and you dare not do it some other way," Robertson says. "It's very military-like. When you see drill instructors in the movies break the recruit down, well, it's like that, not as physical, but the verbal!"
Robertson wouldn't have had it any other way. "It molds character. When I'm in the station and I'm told to do something, and I don't do it right away, I catch all sorts of hell. It can be mean and cruel, but the lessons learned in the station become valuable hours later when you're on the scene and somebody barks an order: you do it!"