Respected St. Thomas fire chief, 56, leaves ‘legacy of caring’

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Rob Broadbent was a fire chief, he was a leader and a community champion for St. Thomas.

He died Monday after a battle with kidney cancer at the age of 56.

“He was an amazing individual. He had a smile every day. You’d never find him in a bad mood. He was an extremely caring individual and would always ensure that the firefighters’ health and safety came first,” said Deputy Fire Chief Ray Ormerod.

Broadbent joined the fire service in 1985 and became fire chief in 2010.

Ormerod said Broadbent always made sure his firefighters had what they needed even if that meant someone to talk to.

“For me he was an extremely good and valuable mentor. As I took this role back in 2012 we had a number of discussions about where the fire service had been, where it’s going and what he’d like to see. If there were any issues he was always there to offer me advice and lend a guiding hand to me,” Ormerod said.

Ormerod, who knew Broadbent for over 25 years, said it’s tough to pick out a couple of fires that were memorable because Broadbent was always a spectacular leader. When things needed to get done Broadbent made sure they were done properly.

“When everything was going up, he was calm, cool, collected, offering the firefighters advice or lending a hand where he could,” Ormerod said.

Remembered by St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson as someone who always put others before himself, Broadbent was a profoundly caring man who found a passion for helping his fellow citizens.

“He certainly cared deeply about our community,” Jackson said.

Jackson said she remembers his involvement with charitable causes, particularly surrounding running.

“The Shamrock Shuffle and of course the Railway City Road Races are two things that he gave a lot of time and energy to,” Jackson said. “He certainly will be missed by all of those that are on those organizing committees and all those that participate in those events.”

Jackson had known Broadbent for many years and said his disposition was one that had people flocking to him.

“He was always smiling. He had a great smile and a big, kind heart. Certainly he’s going to be missed by a lot of people and definitely leave a legacy of caring about his community behind,” Jackson said.

The outpouring of grief by the St. Thomas community doesn’t surprise Jackson, who said he was a leader is many ways.

“Firefighting is a very respected career. And we know he was very respected by his peers and colleagues here and across the province as well,” Jackson said.

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