Longtime firefighter honored

Watts recognized with Post 15's annual award

Chris Moore / The Item
Robert Watts of the Sumter Fire Department was recently named the 2008 Firefighter of the Year by Sumter American Legion Post 15. He is seen outside headquarters Tuesday morning at the corner of Hampton Avenue and Magnolia Street.

Item Staff Writer

A 32-year veteran with the Sumter Fire Department has been recognized by Sumter American Legion Post 15 as its Firefighter of the Year.

Robert C. Watts, who has served as battalion chief since 1999, was awarded a plaque by Post 15, a certificate of commendation by the South Carolina General Assembly and a $500 cash award.

C.J. Troyer, chairman of the post's public safety committee, said the firefighter award has been given by the Legion since 1972.

Watts credited his colleagues for their support.

"It's a team effort," he said. "We work together and I wouldn't be able to do anything without the support of my supervisors."

Watts said it was a "great honor" to be recognized by the American Legion.

"But the honor goes to the Lord above who has given me the health to do the job for 32 years," Watts said. "I also want to thank my family. My wife (Darlene) raised our two children because I was always away three or four nights a week on the job."

Watts was recommended for the award by Sumter Fire Chief Karl Ford.

"On any given day, at any time, on duty or off duty, Robert cares deeply for his crew and the community," Ford said. "It does not matter what task or duty that is assigned to him, it is completed with the utmost efficiency. If any family has a sickness or death, Robert is the first to carry ice or give his regards no matter what time of day or night."

Ford said Watts always makes sure he has completed the job before he goes off duty.

"He checks and rechecks everything on his list of daily chores," he said.

Watts is the kind of employee any department would want, Ford said.

"His care for his fellow man really sets deep within the hearts of people that work with him," Ford said. "Many times during his career he has risked his life for citizens in Sumter city and county, (and) at different times, to save his fellow firefighters, never asking for any gratification or thanks. This award should be Robert's for that reason, never asking for any limelight or recognition from anywhere."

Assistant Chief Doug Mathis said Watts is most deserving of the recognition.

"I do not know of anyone in the city or county fire service that has not learned from him. He is one of our most level-headed officers. He not only takes on the role of battalion chief and mentor, but also as a friend."

Contact Staff Writer Randy Burns at rburns@theitem.com or (803) 491-4533.

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