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Veteran fireman steps down after 54 years of service

A veteran firefighter stepped down last week after more than a century of volunteering with the Polo Fire Protection District.

Robert Karrow, 77, retired from the district’s board of trustees June 16 because he has moved to Mt. Morris, ending  a volunteer career that started 54 years ago.

Fire board president Bob Cassens expressed appreciation for Karrow's years of service.

"Nobody has put more thought into this than Bob," Cassens said. "He will be missed."

Karrow joined the fire department as a firefighter in 1960. 

He became fire chief in 1975 and served in that position until 1994.

After his tenure as chief, his fellow firefighters voted him an honorary member of the department.

He was elected to the fire board in 2006 and has served there ever since.

Karrow joined the department because a friend encouraged him to.

“A friend [Larry Wagner] who was in the process of joining said ‘why don’t you join, too?’ Things just kept expanding from there,” Karrow said.

He said he enjoyed the camaraderie with other fire department members, the excitement of going on fire calls, and helping the residents of the community.

“I liked everything about it,” Karrow said. “It meant everything. It was part of my life.”

He credited his late wife Sharon for supporting his dedication and efforts.

“She always backed me up in everything I did,” he said.

Over the years, technology has brought changes and improvements to every aspect of firefighting, Karrow said, from gear, equipment, and vehicles to training and procedures.

“It’s completely changed. There’s more ruled and regulations that you have to go by today,” he said. “More training is required.”

Years ago firefighters were alerted to fires when the siren at the station was activated and by “fire phones” at their homes.

A call to the fire department triggered a special ring on firefighters’ phones.

Without 911, telecommunicators, pagers, and cell phones, calling other fire departments for help had to be done on landlines.

“I think the changes are all for the better,” Karrow said.

He has passed along a legacy of service and dedication.

His son Tony Karrow is presently the Polo Fire Chief, and his grandson Chad Karrow serves as a firefighter.

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