With a fireman for a grandfather, Robbie Keebler said he “kind of grew up in the fire house” in Collegeville, Pa.
A full-time undergraduate student studying environmental science at Slippery Rock University, Keebler has since followed in his grandfather’s footsteps as a volunteer firefighter for the Slippery Rock Volunteer Fire Company and Rescue Team.
Having started working as a volunteer firefighter in Montgomery County before continuing in Butler County, Keebler has worked in the field for roughly five years.
This year, Keebler was recognized by the Rotary Club of Slippery Rock as a Hometown Hero.
“There’s a lot of hard work in numbers at this station,” he said. “(Being nominated) kind of meant a lot.”
As he juggles schoolwork and fire calls, Keebler expressed that the most rewarding parts of being a volunteer firefighter include giving back to the community and the camaraderie.
Keebler has completed the essential firefighter course — a big step as a firefighter, said fire Chief Ryan Hanchosky, who nominated Keebler.
Keebler is also certified to drive ambulances, a job that was critically needed during the pandemic, Hanchosky said. Amid multiple COVID-19 surges, Keebler was one of the volunteer drivers for the department.
“During the pandemic, as you know, ambulance calls kind of spiked,” Hanchosky said.
The department projects that it will receive a record-breaking number of 600 calls in the next year, Hanchosky said. With the influx of calls and a critical need in the community for emergency service members, Hanchosky described Keebler as one of the guys who the department can rely on.
“He’s a real go-getter, and always in a real positive attitude,” Hanchosky said. “He works really hard and is very intelligent with work, schoolwork anything.”
Being a volunteer firefighter takes a lot of drive and dedication, Keebler said.
“It’s a pretty big time commitment in order to be good at what we do,” he shared. “A lot of times in training, you answer calls at any hour, that sort of thing.”
As a senior at SRU and a volunteer firefighter, Keebler hasn’t had to leave class for any calls, though he has occasionally missed class to take them. Through it all, he remains committed to his schoolwork, Keebler said.
“It can be difficult,” he said. “I just kind of make sure the schoolwork gets done.”
He maintains that same attitude while at work. As part of a team, he is focused on whatever task is at hand.
“Honestly, my friends here at the fire house, we help each other out as needed,” he said. “When we’re on calls, we’re very mission-oriented. Stuff gets done, and you do it.”
Outside of the duties involved the department, Keebler said he enjoys being part of the fire fighting community.
“I just really love it,” he said.