BREWER, Maine — After 11 years at the helm of the Brewer Fire Department and 35 years on the force, Fire Chief Rick Bronson has decided it’s time to move on.
He announced his retirement on Wednesday, making March 5 the last day he will wear the city’s white fire chief’s helmet.
“I have some other things I want to do in the world, some other things I’d like done,” Bronson said.
Bronson, who became a Bangor City Councilor last year, joined the Brewer fire department in July 1974 as a paid on-call firefighter.
He applied for the chief’s job in 1998, after working for the department for more than two decades and watching it slowly decline.
“I had 23 years in the department and I cared about it, and it was falling apart,” Bronson said. “There was substantial turmoil here” that only insiders knew about.
“It was spectacular really,” he said. “We not only quelled that, but we were able to rebuild it.”
The effort resulted in a strong leadership team, who today are trained and ready for just about anything, he said.
“This group of officers in this department … they’re going to make the best decision” in every situation thrown at them, Bronson said. “What more could I leave to the citizens?”
Bronson oversees a team of seven officers, 13 full-time and 22 part-time firefighters.
City Manager Steve Bost said Wednesday that he was not surprised when Bronson announced his retirement, but said his shoes will be hard to fill.
“He has done a superb job in leading that department through some difficult times,” Bost said. “He has been instrumental in improving the department’s infrastructure, its equipment and cultivating a staff of professionals that is second to none.”
Over the last decade, Bronson worked to completely modernize the department’s aging fleet and helped with designs of the new Brewer Public Safety building on Parkway South to ensure his crews had the best and safest fire station the city’s money could buy.
Bronson and a team of his firefighters also have worked hard over the last year to create and fill the new Public Safety Museum, which pays homage to the city’s rich heritage of fire service.
“I think he’s done a tremendous job in bringing the department into the modern era,” Mayor Arthur “Archie” Verow said. “Certainly the new facility has his trademark all over [it] … making it ideal for now and the future.”
Bost, in a press release, said, “Rick has had an uncanny ability to manage the day-to-day operations of his department while positioning it to meet the needs of the future. We will miss him.”
Bronson’s commitment to his crews and ensuring his firefighters have the best training available is very apparent, Verow said.
“I think he instilled in the men a sense of greater pride and concentrated on training and education and making the ambulance program a larger part of the operation,” he said. “He did a real nice job.”
Verow also said he was not surprised with Bronson’s announcement.
“I know he has other irons in the fire,” he said.
After Bronson retires in March, the emergency pager and fire scanners that have been a part of his life since the mid-1980s will also retire. Bronson said he is still not sure how he will deal with the silence that will undoubtedly occur with their absence, but he said there will be little, if any, downtime in his life.
“I am far too ambitious” to sit and do nothing, he said, without giving any specific details of his future plans.