Burke Resident Named Firefighter of the Year
Master Technician Robert 'Bob' Upchurch received the department's highest award Wednesday.
Master Technician Robert Upchurch, a Burke resident and 25-year veteran of the Fairfax County Fire Department, was honored Wednesday as 2012 Career Firefighter of the Year in a ceremony in Fairfax.
"Firefighter of the Year is the most prestigious honor this department bestows," said Battalion Chief Tyrone Harrington. "It honors outstanding service and selfless dedication," he said.
The Public Safety Center conference room in the Massey Building was filled with colleagues, family and friends gathered to honor Upchurch.
"You are the example we measure firefighters by," said Battalion Chief Brian Rooney to Upchurch. "Being a firefighter is not something you do, it is who you are," he said. "To quote Carly Simon: 'Nobody does it better'."
Upchurch is a second-generation firefighter. "Bob was drawn to this career by the example of his father Don, a 38-year veteran of the City of Alexandria Fire and Rescue Department" said Captain Harrington.
Upchurch joined the department in 1987. In 2007 he opened Fire and Rescue Station 41, Crosspointe, in Fairfax Station. He was a 9-11 First Responder, and spent 10 days working at both the Pentagon and at Ground Zero in New York City. He is most highly regarded for his service as chairman of the department’s Apparatus Committee.
The Apparatus Committee is one of the most important and highly visible committees in the organization, according to the department. Upchurch was commended for contributing countless hours, in addition to regular committee meetings, to apparatus research and best practices, development of a technical manual, and providing wise counsel to senior management. His selfless service was recognized as immeasurably adding to the outstanding apparatus readiness of the department’s fleet.
In addition, Upchurch serves on the National Fire Protection Association NFPA 1901. He is one of only two uniformed members on the committee of industry professionals and city managers. "I don't think you can really appreciate the confidence and trust we have in Bob to go out and represent us nationally," said Fire Chief Ron Martin to those gathered. "We trust him without question."
"This day has been a long time coming," said one guest. "A more dedicated, ambitious, hard working, trustworthy person in this department we'd be hard-pressed to find."
"Fairfax County is a family, and some members of the family stand out for really going above and beyond what is asked of them," said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova. "I want to say thank you," she said to Upchurch.
For his part, Upchurch graciously accepted all the praise, because he was continually told he had to. When it was his turn to speak, he turned the spotlight onto others. "No man is an island," he said, attributing his success to all the people in his life.
"I've always considered my dad the best, and today it's official," said Jesse Upchurch, Bob's 18-year-old son.
The Firefighter of the Year Award is the department’s highest award, established in 1985 to provide special recognition for outstanding service and dedication that is in keeping with the highest traditions of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. Master Technician Upchurch is the 27th recipient of the award.