Firefighters are known for dedication
By Kathy McCarty
PRESQUE ISLE — This year the Maine State Federation of Firefighters Convention was held in Presque Isle, with about 70 departments participating in the three-day event. Representing those departments were firefighters with hundreds of years’ of combined service to saving others’ lives and property.
Firefighting isn’t for everyone, but for those who choose it as a career, it’s a lifetime passion that’s evident whenever they talk about what they do and why they do it.
“I’ve been a firefighter for 41 years, 38 years of that instructing others,” said Ken Desmond, of Sagadahoc County, MSFF Board member.
Desmond said attending the convention provided an opportunity to meet up with other firefighters he’s met or taught over the years.
“I enjoyed it. It was like old home week. I taught for many years here as part of the fire academy,” said Desmond, of Bath, noting he knew several of the local firefighters at the convention through his years of teaching.
Joe Guyotte, of Piscataquis County, had a number of years as a firefighter to his credit as well.
“I’ve been attending these conventions for 45 years. I’ve been doing this almost longer than I can remember,” said Guyotte, of Dover-Foxcroft.
Guyotte said he and other department members like attending the event, since it’s an opportunity to see what other departments are doing.
“We’ve traveled around the state, attending the annual convention and checking out what our counterparts are up to. This is as nice as I’ve seen,” said Guyotte, whose department made the trip with a 1955 American LaFrance model fire truck.
Presque Isle’s Fred Parsons has been a firefighter for about 26 years. He said he has no interest in retiring any time soon.
“We just hired a new person at the department and I re-qualified right along with him. I just wanted to show everyone I can still do what it takes. I love what I do and can’t imagine not being a firefighter,” said Parsons.
Parsons said he’s known Desmond for many years.
“Ken was one of my first instructors. I took the fire academy with him when I first started 26 years ago. I’ll celebrate my anniversary with the PIFD on Oct. 7,” Parsons said.
Matt Nadeau has been an EMT with the Hudson Fire Department for a couple years and looks forward to attending the convention each year.
“This is the farthest north I’ve traveled for a convention. Next year’s will be in our back yard (Waterville). I like all the variety these events offer. There are always so many activities — things to learn,” said Nadeau.
Doug Thomas, of the Montville Fire Department, said a change of careers came about following his retirement from a previous job.
“I’ve been with the department about two and a half years. Once I retired, I wanted to help people, so I joined the MFD,” said Thomas.
For some, firefighting is a family affair. Such is the case for Harvey McLellen Jr. and his son, Aaron McLellan.
“I’ve been with the Ashland Fire Department five years. I like working with the other firefighters and making a difference for the citizens we serve,” said Aaron McLellan.
His father has served the community for nearly three decades, keeping up the family tradition.
“I’ve been on the Ashland Fire Department about 29 years,” said Harvey McLellan. “I also had a grandfather and uncle who served on the Sherman Fire Department.”
When asked why they’ve devoted their lives to their local fire departments, all answered with the same response.
“We want to help others,” they said.
Staff photos/Kathy McCarty
PROUD FIREFIGHTER — “Fireman Fred” Parsons, a 26-year member of the PIFD, entertained parade watchers Sept. 11, proudly carrying the Stars and Stripes as he sang his way through town.
PAUSING FOR A PHOTO OP — An autograph session at the PIFD during the annual state firefighter convention served as a perfect opportunity for Randolph “Randy” Mantooth — star of TV’s “Emergency” — to have his picture taken with Robert Jackson, who joined the PIFD in 1967.
RANDOLPH MANTOOTH, at left — who starred as Johnny Gage on the television series “Emergency” — held a private autograph session for firefighters at the PIFD during the 47th annual Maine State Federation of Firefighters Convention. Pictured at right are Ashland resident Laurie McLellan with her son, Aaron McLellan, a member of the Ashland Fire Department.