By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE — A fire tone sounded across a radio frequency that carries emergency response messages for the city's police and fire departments about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
While the information following the loud squeal usually is an address and explainer of a burning building or blazing brush fire, this message was different.
"All units, Division Chief (Bob) Martin is now retired," the operator's voice said, for a moment shared by more than 50 firefighters from across Central Texas as well as Martin's family and friends at a ceremony in the city's main fire station.
Martin, whose last day with the city was July 31, had served with the Copperas Cove Fire Department for the last 26 years — two of those as a volunteer.
Starting as a paid firefighter on May 21, 1988, Martin worked his way up the department's chain of command and was promoted to fire marshal in October 2007 and to division chief in June 2009.
During the last five years, Martin was responsible for public education of fire prevention and fire safety, and coordinated numerous programs with the Copperas Cove Independent School District, area day cares, and helped organize community events for the city.
"I know how dedicated you are and how passionate you are about fire prevention and fire safety," City Manager Andrea Gardner told Martin at the ceremony.
Martin had a lot of duties for Copperas Cove; delivering the fire safety message was just one of them, Fire Chief Sean Hughes said. A fire marshal investigates and determines causes of fires, does building inspections, reviews building plans and much more.
"It is a pretty large tool box that the fire marshal has to carry," Hughes said. "And with all aspects of his job, he took all of them very seriously and was very good at it. He will be missed."
Hughes gave Martin the first-ever Copperas Cove fire chief's coin to thank him for his service, and fellow firefighters also gifted several other pieces of memorabilia from the last 24 years to include every patch, badge and brass worn by Martin, his last fire helmet and an ax.
"The fire service is a very tight family that is full of brothers and sisters," Martin said during his ceremony, "but for me most of them are sons and daughters. It is an age thing."
Martin said he will miss the camaraderie of the department, especially in times of distress such as after 9/11 and the Fort Hood shooting because of how all fire departments pulled together to help those who were suffering and responding.
"I wish everybody the best and I want you to be safe," he said, closing a short speech at the end of the ceremony.
Contact Mason W. Canales at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7474. Follow him on Twitter at KDHCoveEditor.