Bob Watkins – fighting fires nearly 20 years

Published 2:59 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2023

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Bob Watkins has been serving Lowndes County residents as a member of the Fort Deposit Fire Department for the better part of two decades.

Drawn to become a firefighter because of his love of helping others, he found his place within the department and developed a true passion for emergency response.

“I love to help people and I was raised to believe that if you scratch my back then I’ll scratch yours,” Watkins said. “I love helping my community but being hands on, being a part of everything and being down in the fire is my favorite thing about it.”

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Fellow fireman Brandyn Sousa is also a member of the Fort Deposit Fire Department and  said that Watkins is a great asset to the department as well as the community he protects.

“He [Watkins] is always there on calls and he’s a considerate, good, down to earth guy,” Sousa said. “No matter if he’s having a bad day he always has a smile on his face. Anything you need he always comes through.”

In addition to Watkins’ role as a firefighter, Sousa said he takes on a much bigger role for those he cares about, stepping up to the plate to pitch in wherever help may be needed.

“He’s like our protector,” Sousa stressed. “If something needs taken care of or if there’s an issue, he’s the one who handles it. He’s there for you even if it’s something in your personal life and he is very involved in all of our families.”

Watkins said one of the biggest challenges he has experienced in his role as a volunteer firefighter is a stigma surrounding the compensation departments like Fort Deposit receives.

“A lot of people think that we’re getting paid to help, but we operate on a volunteer basis,” Watkins said. “Pretty much all of our funding is raised by us and from donations from organizations in the community. We’re a volunteer department so trying to get help to get the things we really need like equipment and things like that can be tough.”

Watkins said the community aspect of his role as a volunteer firefighter can be difficult to navigate, but is also what makes his role so important.

“Its a little small town and it can be hard,” Watkins said. “It’s a family deal here. Everybody knows everybody and we just try to do the best we can.”

Watkins urged those who may be on the fence about starting a career as a firefighter to take the plunge.

“If this is what is in your heart then absolutely go for it,” Watkins said. “Not only is it a great career, but you spend your days helping people and that’s what I believe in.”