Carrollton mourns a firefighter

Published 9:33 pm Friday, February 3, 2017

By Allison T. Williams


Red lights flashing, a convoy of fire engines and ambulances escorted Carrollton Volunteer Fire Department firefighter Paul Robbins on his last run this Wednesday.

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Robbins, 61, a volunteer firefighter since 2002 and owner of two Peninsula insurance agencies, died last Friday at Riverside Regional Medical Center.

He was taken to the hospital early Thursday, Jan. 26, after suffering a stroke overnight, according to his wife, Kathy Robbins.

Although the couple had lived on the Peninsula for years, he immediately embraced the opportunity to volunteer with Carrollton when they moved across the James River, she said.

Paul’s father was a career firefighter in New York for decades. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Paul resolved to carry on the family tradition by joining a volunteer department, Kathy said.

“He wanted to give back,” Kathy said. “He loved serving this community.”

As the first responders drove slowly through Robbins’ neighborhood Wednesday, clusters of neighbors gathered, some saluting and waving small American flags. The fire department is retiring his number, 137, said firefighter Albert Burckard.

Hours before his death, at his family’s request, three dozen Carrollton firefighters filled Robbins’ room in Riverside’s ICU and presented Paul with the lifetime service award he was scheduled to receive Saturday night, Burckard said. The award is given only after 15 years of service.

Although he was certified to run both fire and emergency medical calls, Paul always preferred the EMT calls that came in overnight, said Kathy. The screech of the scanner became background music in their home at night, and Paul never hesitated to take a call.

“Paul ran hundreds of calls over the last 16 years,” Burckard said. “Sometimes, if they were in his neighborhood, he got on scene before the ambulance, and was able to make a quick assessment to save us a little time.”

Paul will be remembered as good businessman and a hands-on father and grandfather who made family a priority, Kathy said. When their sons, Michael and Christopher, were growing up in Poquoson, he was usually coaching their baseball and basketball teams, she said.

“Our house was always the house where our sons’ friends would hang out,” she said. “He was a dad to a lot of their friends.”

Paul loved being a grandfather and always reserved a day every couple of weeks for his grandson.

Ever since his grandson, Tyler, was born five years ago, Paul tried to take alternating Wednesdays off to spend with him. On the day before his death, Paul and Tyler spent the morning at Windsor Castle Park, met Kathy for lunch, then went to the Virginia Living Museum for the afternoon before meeting his son for dinner.

That day, Paul seemed fine, Kathy recalled.

Today, two people who were in dire need of organ transplants — specifically, lungs and kidneys — have a new guardian angel and healthier lives, thanks to Paul.

“Even in death, he is giving,” Kathy said. “It’s brought our family even closer to the fire department.”

“We lost a true brother,” said volunteer firefighter Fred Mitchell, past president of the fire department. “He believed in taking care of his family and his community … and he lived a life that exemplifies what it means be a successful family man.”

Despite having lived in Virginia for the past 35 years, Robbins never lost his allegiance to the New York Giants, Mitchell recalled.

“Paul always had a sense of humor,” Mitchell said. “He liked to razz the (Washington) Redskins fans.”