MILLINOCKET, Maine — With Fire Chief Wayne Campbell retiring on June 30, town leaders are searching for a successor, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue says.
Officials are interviewing in-house candidates and might go outside the department, Conlogue said. No decision has been made.
Campbell retires with about 42 years of part- and full-time service with the fire department. He had been an assistant fire chief for six of his 17 years of full-time service when he was appointed chief by then-Town Manager Paul Bird and the Town Council in January 1999, along with Police Chief Carlton Jones.
Campbell succeeded Fire Chief Milan Thornton, who had retired in March 1998.
Councilors Michael Madore; John and Bryant Davis, who are related; and Jimmy Busque congratulated Campbell on his retirement and many years of service when Conlogue announced the retirement at the council’s May 24 meeting.
“We are losing a lot of knowledge and experience with his departure,” Police Chief Donald Bolduc said Thursday. “The police and fire departments in my opinion have a very good working relationship. We rely on each other a lot.”
Besides his work as a fire chief, Campbell is known as an avid historian of snowmobiles who helps the Northern Timber Cruisers manage an antique snowmobile museum and organize the parade of antique slow sleds that is part of the annual Katahdin Area Winterfest in Millinocket.
As a 19-year-old college student, Campbell was among four men who rode some of the earliest examples of snowmobiles to Elephant Mountain in the Township 8, Range 10 area near Greenville and helped locate a B-52 Stratofortress that had crashed there on Jan. 24, 1963.
The B-52 had left Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts and was at about 300 feet and traveling at about 345 mph when it hit severe turbulence as it sped into the Greenville area. Three men managed to eject before the jet crashed. Only two of the nine crew members survived.
Years later, Campbell recalled that they initially searched the Katahdin Iron Works region where officials first believed the airplane had crashed. When the wreckage was spotted from the air later, the snowmobilers went to Elephant Mountain, where debris from the airplane was still burning, he said. The foursome hauled the bodies of the dead from the wreckage to a waiting ambulance.
“It had a profound impact on me; I had never seen anything like it before,” Campbell said after visiting the site 40 years later as part of a memorial service.