The Madison Fire Department was part of Robert Recob’s life long before he became a firefighter here in January 1991.
His father, Ray Disch, was an assistant chief at the MFD and ultimately steered Recob toward a career in the department, transitioning from a job working in maintenance for Woodman's Food Market.
As a new firefighter, Recob was assigned to Station 6 (Badger Rd.) in March 1991. He stayed there for nine years until the MFD formalized the position of Apparatus Engineer, promoting and assigning him to an A/E post at Station 5 on Cottage Grove Rd.
At the time, Station 5 housed the Hazardous Incident Team's decontamination unit. It's where Recob earned the nickname "Decon Bob."
Then, when the Heavy Urban Rescue Team (HURT) took up shop at Station 8 on Lien Road, Recob followed and stayed there for the remainder of his career. With the new focus on HURT, his nickname naturally evolved to "Recon Bob."
Recob officially said goodbye to his Station 8 family and fellow HURT members on Wednesday, January 27.
For Recob, the old expression "trial by fire" was all too true.
His first day ever driving Engine 6 was May 3, 1991— the same day the Central Storage & Warehouse Company, a cold storage facility housing about 50 million pounds of food products, burned in a historic fire that wiped out two buildings and evacuated approximately 3,000 residents in the vicinity.
He remembers getting the page:
“I was making perch for lunch that day, and when we heard the tones for a fire at Central Storage I said, ‘Lieutenant, should I put the fish away?’ He looked at me and said, 'Kid, what could be burning in a freezer?’
"What could be burning in the freezer? Everything!”
In fact, high-fat food products like lard and butter fueled the fire which ultimately demanded a three-alarm response and taxed MFD’s on-duty resources.
While battling the blaze, Recob, his officer and crewmates were inside the engine calculating their next move. They found themselves confined by a laid-down hose in use by Ladder 1— one they knew they didn't want to drive over.
That’s when they heard a roaring rumble.
“I mean, it was very loud,” he said. “All the shelving with all the canned hams and stuff were starting to come down.”
He remembers hearing someone yell, “Get that engine out of there!” just before he slammed the accelerator and ran over the four-inch hose that rested before them.
“All of my supply line was buried. I got really close,” he said, describing how the shelving inside the warehouse kicked the walls out and would have tipped over the engine if they hadn’t moved out of the way precisely when they did.
Later, Recob went on to drive Squad 6 for the first time— a vehicle once utilized for extrications and supplying crews tending to fire scenes. That's when an elevator shaft caught fire at University Hospital.
"That was my introduction to those two rigs. I started 'under fire,'" he says with a chuckle.
Recob also served on Task Force 2, a regional heavy rescue team funded by state and federal dollars that could potentially be sent anywhere in the country if deployed. After Task Force 2 dissolved, Recob remained on the MFD HURT, which responds to special rescues and provides mutual aid to other municipalities when necessary.
The biggest call of his career, he says, was the collapse of the Rennebohm Pharmacy Building in 1999. He was on the team with then-Lieutenant Ron Schwenn when a construction worker was pinned underneath heavy concrete, iron, and other materials.
Recob says there were two giant cranes attempting to lift the debris, along with the airbags his team deployed. Nothing worked.
“They were giving us one more chance. We tried two times to lift him and we couldn’t get him to lift, so they brought two surgeons in, they set up an operating table right there, and they were giving us one more try," he recalls. "If we didn’t get him in one more try, they were going to go in and cut him off at the knees."
Knowing they had one last shot, the team gave a final hoist and successfully freed the worker from the concrete trap.
“When you looked over there and you were told that this guy was going to lose his legs if you didn’t get him out of here this time—and then we did and he ended up being okay—that was just a feeling of… a lot of emotions.”
Two and a half decades of front-line service to the city and the region certainly presented countless challenges, but what kept Recob going throughout the years were the people he had the pleasure to know.
“This is the best place in the whole city to work. You’re surrounded by capable people, and they all want to come here," he said. “I’m never here later than 6:30 in the morning (for a 7:00 shift), and half the people beat me to work!"
Recob says he'll spend more time hunting and fishing during his retirement, and he’ll continue traveling around to cheer on his son, a gifted basketball player who’s a sophomore in high school.
His wife, Tracy, continues to serve as a lieutenant on Madison's west side, and with several of his colleagues joining them on the lake or in the woods in their free time, the MFD family that Recob has cherished for the last 25 years will surely remain a special part of his life.
Pictured above: Recob behind Ladder 8 displaying Task Force 2 and HURT logos
Pictured below: Recob on scene following a tornado
Subscribe to Email List
- Rick Mulhern, Leader In Technical Rescue and Peer Support, Retires From MFD
- Burn Awareness Week: About UW Hospital's Burn Center
- Burn Awareness Week: Identifying and Treating Burns
- Burn Awareness Week: Sunburn and Frostbite
- Burn Awareness Week: Home Oxygen Safety
- Burn Awareness Week: Preventing Cooking-Related Scalds and Burns
- Meet Firefighter Brennan Boughton
- Meet Firefighter Mike Lothe
- Meet Firefighter Mitch Hanson
- Meet Firefighter Sam Coenen
- Meet Firefighter Marshall Angst
- Meet Firefighter Brandon Courts
- Meet Firefighter Jacob Biliack
- Meet Firefighter Grahm Yahn
- Meet Firefighter Tom Shannon
- Meet Firefighter Joe Parrillo
- Meet Firefighter Ryan Dostalek
- MFD Introduces Recruit Class 7!
- MFD's Community Education Division Teaches Kids To BE AWARE
- LEARN Two Ways Out Of Every Room
- LISTEN For The Sound Of The Smoke Alarm
- LOOK: Fire Hazards May Lurk In Your Home
- First Annual Richard Garner Memorial Ride Raises Over $14,000 For Scholarship Fund
- Meet Lieutenant Zak Smith
- Meet Lieutenant Eric Mills
- We Send Our Condolences To Sun Prairie Today
- Meet Lieutenant Liza Tatar
- Meet Lieutenant David Crossen II
- Four New Lieutenants Assume Position At Area Fire Stations
- National EMS Memorial Bike Ride Pays A Visit To Station 4
- Engine 10 Helps Reunite Mama Duck With Four Stranded Ducklings
- Home Fire Sprinklers: A Small Investment That Could Save Your Life
- New Aerial Platform Ladder Truck Hits The Road On Madison's West Side
- Show Us Your Smarts: Take the Home Fire Sprinkler Quiz!
- Fire Sprinkler Protection: See the Difference!
- Hiding In Plain Sight: Choosing Concealed Fire Sprinklers
- The Truth About Home Fire Sprinklers
- Seconds Matters: How Home Fire Sprinklers Save Lives
- FREE! Madison Women In Fire/EMS Workshop
- Meet Firefighter Michael Samosky
- Meet Firefighter Nickolas George
- Meet Firefighter Desmond Leidich
- Meet Firefighter Kyle Kampmeier
- Meet Firefighter Jonathan Clinkscale
- Meet Firefighter John Clooten
- Meet Firefighter McKinnan Stamschror
- Meet Firefighter Ryan Raisbeck
- Meet Firefighter Daniel Ramirez
- Meet Firefighter Brett Bower
- Meet Firefighter Bryce Powell
- Meet Firefighter Daniel Congdon
- Meet Firefighter Larry Moen
- Meet Firefighter Charles Campbell
- Meet Firefighter Casey Endres
- Meet Firefighter Benjamin Nevarez
- Recruit Class 6 Reports For Duty
- New Solar Panels Installed At Fire Station 12
- Fire Prevention Week: Fire Prevention Quiz
- Fire Prevention Week: Easy-To-See House Numbers Help Us Find You Faster!
- Fire Prevention Week: Practice Your Escape Plan!
- Fire Prevention Week: How To Make A Home Fire Escape Plan
- Fire Prevention Week: Every Second Counts -- Know 2 Ways Out!
- Now Accepting Firefighter Applications!
- CampHERO for Women Coming Up Saturday!
- A 'Thank You' Note To Our Partners On Stratton Way
- Madison Launches 'PulsePoint Verified Responder' Pilot Program
- Mesothelioma Awareness Day a Time to Reflect on Cancer Risk, Prevention
- Meet Lieutenant Jeffery Vogen
- Meet Lieutenant Chris Hammes
- Meet Lieutenant Wes Ecker
- Meet Lieutenant Chris Carbon
- Meet Lieutenant Linnea Anderson
- Meet Lieutenant Dan Williams
- MFD Introduces Six New Lieutenants!
- Upcoming Community Events!
- ER Docs Dive Into Firefighting During 'Doc Ops Day'
- MFD Lends Helping Hand At Gilbert Brown Football Camp
- Special Delivery: “Beltline Jax” Makes A Grand Entrance
- New Lease On Life: Oregon Man Reconnects With Crew That Helped Save Him
- 235 New Smoke Alarms Move Into Sherman Terrace!
- Captain Todd Steyer Wraps Up A Fulfilling 30-Year Career With MFD
- Calling All Volunteers! CampHERO Kicks Off Its 6th Season
- EMS Q&A: Where can I learn CPR?
- EMS Q&A: Did you know MFD paramedics are also firefighters?
- EMS Q&A: What should I expect after calling for an ambulance?
- EMS Q&A: What’s the difference between an EMT and a Paramedic? How many paramedics are on duty?
- EMS Q&A: Why does a fire truck come when I call for an ambulance?
- Meet Firefighter Maj-Britt Williams
- Meet Firefighter Adam Thimmig
- Meet Firefighter Ruth Savard
- Meet Firefighter Mike Reisman
- Meet Firefighter Trent Meicher
- Meet Firefighter Jonathon McCray
- Meet Firefighter Adam Lesser
- Meet Firefighter Patrick Johnson
- Meet Firefighter Kyle Homan
- Meet Firefighter Joe Gangler
- Meet Firefighter Justin Fehrenbach
- Meet Firefighter Matthew Dykstra
- Meet Firefighter Brandon Douglas
- Meet Firefighter Tamara Dinkel
- Meet Firefighter Marta Darrow
- Meet Firefighter Davy Calkins
- Meet Firefighter Ryan Beckwith
- MFD Introduces 18 New Firefighters!
- A Greener Firehouse: How Fire Station 12 LEEDs the Way
- Meet AE Brad Vogen
- Meet AE Vince Soto
- Meet AE Chad Powell
- Meet AE Daniel Pazurek
- Meet AE Todd Mahoney
- Meet Apparatus Engineer Cole Christenson
- Meet AE Derek Brown
- New Apparatus Engineers Now Serving In Your Neighborhood!
- Dane County EMS Banquet Honors Survivors, Responders Involved In Cardiac Saves
- On This Day In History: The First 911 Call Is Placed In 1968
- PHOTOS: Getting Up Close With The Lake Rescue Team
- Sable Flames "Second Alarm" Benefit Enters Its 24th Year
- Madison's Iranian Community Comes Together To Honor Firefighters
- Building Connections, Inspiring Kids: Engine 12 At Olson Elementary School
- Welcome Home: Cooper's Hawk Returns To Willy Street
- The Results Are In: 91 Donations Collected During the “Never Forget” Blood Drive
- Meet AE Ethan Dade
- Meet AE Wade Raddatz
- Meet AE Lance Radock
- Meet AE Jacob Conner
- Meet AE Dan Smith
- Meet AE Kevin Hembrook
- National Preparedness Month: Special Needs Disaster Planning
- Meet AE Tom Winter
- Meet AE Lori Karst
- MFD Introduces Eight New Apparatus Engineers
- Reflections On This 15th Anniversary Of 9/11
- Generous Grant Brings New "Jaws Of Life" Equipment To Ladder 6
- National Preparedness Month: Creating Communication and Evacuation Plans
- National Preparedness Month: Don't Wait. Communicate.
- Project SOAR and the MFD
- “Doc Ops Day” Gives ER Docs A Taste Of Firefighter Life
- Two Years After Accident, Family And First Responders Celebrate 'A Miracle'
- Madison Fire Aims To Keep Injuries Well Under Par At PGA Championships
- “It’s Been A Great Ride," Says Retiring Driver John Lucille
- A Thank-You Gift For All To Enjoy
- “Friday Nights At the Y” Returns In 2016
- Meet Lt. Lisa Becher
- Meet Lt. Derek Teff
- Meet Lt. Casey Preimesberger
- Resources For Candidates Preparing For the Physical Ability Test
- Meet Lt. Sue Juedes
- Meet Lt. Ted Higgins
- Meet Lt. Matthew Mialik
- Meet Lt. Michael McCartney
- MFD Introduces Seven New Lieutenants
- Inside The Galaxie: Making Madison's Newest High Rise Safer For All
- Edgewood Students Donate Stuffed Animals For Kids Experiencing Trauma
- Apparatus Engineer "Recon Bob" Says Goodbye After 25 Years Of Service
- New Boat Enhances MFD Lake Rescue Capabilities
- With Gratitude, Division Chief Ron Schwenn Bids Farewell To the MFD
- New Training Technology Aims to Offer Full Immersion, Minus the Risks
- In the Midst Of Transitions, Our Crews Don't Miss A Beat
- Finance Manager Rita Johnson Retires After 44 Years With the City
- Farewell to West District Captain Tom Reiter
- Meet Firefighter Caluster Buie
- Meet Firefighter Steven Foulks
- Meet Firefighter Richard Miyagawa
- Meet Firefighter Joshua Balli
- Meet Firefighter Matthew Boyle
- Meet Firefighter Oscar Castillo
- Meet Firefighter David Bartkowiak
- Meet Firefighter Christopher Staveness
- Meet Firefighter Michael Guerten
- Meet Firefighter Marcus Bobholz
- Meet Firefighter Joshua Ramsey
- Meet Firefighter Michael Olson
- Meet Firefighter Eric Popovich
- Meet Firefighter Paul Schecklman
- Meet Firefighter Brian Tremain
- Meet Firefighter Cameron Gasaway
- Meet Firefighter Vaughn Brockel
- Why We Do What We Do: Remembering the Our Lady of the Angels Fire
- Meet Firefighter Brian Bieganski
- Farewell To AASPIRE Intern Casey Tubbs
- Meet Lt. Tim Hagen
- Meet Lt. Jeff Mast
- Meet Lt. Matt Thomas
- Meet Lt. AJ Greenlee
- Meet Lt. Chris Homman
- Join The Team Current News
- MFD Introduces Five New Lieutenants
- Saving Santa at Station 3
- MFD Mailbag: Kudos For the Crew of Engine 7A
- Madison Fire Recruit Class 4 Begins
- MFD Begins Serving Towns of Blooming Grove, Burke Today
- The Madison Fire Department Prepares For Inaugural "Shake the Lake" Event
- The Heavy Urban Rescue Team Practices Life-Saving Skills
- Safety Saturday 2015: A Day In Photos
- Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Boss Lift
- Firefighter Fun Day 2015 is Saturday, August 8
- Retired Firefighter Tim Healy Inducted Into Madison Sports Hall Of Fame
- Firefighter Ty Stebbins Sworn In
Emergency Medical Services
- A Day In The Life Of A Madison Firefighter
- Alix Olson Award
- Awards & Recognition
- Battle Of the Badges
- Black History Month
- Burn Awareness Week
- Cancer Prevention
- Community Outreach
- Dane County Public Safety Communications
- Fire Academy
- Fire Prevention Division
- fire prevention month
- Fire Prevention Week
- Fire Safety School Tours
- Fire Stations
- Firefighter Fun Day
- Friday Nights at the Y
- Hazmat Team
- Heavy Urban Rescue Team
- Hiring & Promotions
- Home Fire Sprinklers
- Join the Team
- Lake Rescue Team
- Madison Fire EMS
- Meet the MFD
- Mesothelioma Awareness Day
- MFD Behind the Scenes
- MFD Mailbag
- MFD Prevention Division
- National Preparedness Month
- Our Lady Of the Angels
- public health
- Public Safety
- Sable Flames
- Safety Town
- Shake the Lake
- The American Center
- Training & Professional Development
- UW Health
- Wanda Fullmore Youth Internship Program
- Winter Safety