New Bowdoinham fire chief: ‘If it’s in your family … it’s definitely in your blood’

Posted March 27, 2013, at 5:28 a.m.

BOWDOINHAM, Maine — Nearly 50 years after his father, Allan Frizzle, became chief of the Bowdoinham Fire Department, Arthur Frizzle will accept that honor and responsibility from outgoing Fire Chief Jack Tourtelotte on Monday, April 1.

Donning the white chief’s helmet, Frizzle will assume command of the approximately 25-member volunteer department in the town he’s lived in his whole life.

Arthur Frizzle — or “Fudd” — has served on the volunteer department for 32 of his 44 years, starting as a junior firefighter, then a full firefighter, captain, acting deputy chief and, soon, chief.

The fire department, he said, is in the Frizzle blood.

“Oh my, yes,” he said. “If it’s in your blood, or in your family, it’s definitely in your blood.”

Frizzle’s father, Allan, joined the Bowdoinham Fire Department in the 1940s when he moved to town from Waterboro. He still drops in on the Monday night trainings from time to time, as he did this week, and echoes his son’s words: “It’s in the blood.”

Then, Arthur Frizzle said, “I started, and my brother and brother-in-law are on the department. One brother is deputy chief, and I have a nephew who is a captain. And my cousin is a captain.”

In such a small town — Bowdoinham’s population was just under 3,000 in 2010 — the volunteer department is more tightly knit, Frizzle said, even as department numbers, like in almost all small towns, dwindle.

Brian Hobart, chairman of the board of selectmen in Bowdoinham, said that after interviewing four candidates, Frizzle was the unanimous choice for the part-time post “based on his background and the way he interviewed.”

Frizzle also was Tourtelotte’s choice, the outgoing chief said.

“He’s good. He’s who I wanted,” said Tourtelotte, who will retire after 57 years in the department — 14 of them as chief.

“I won’t have a pager to go off,” Tourtelotte said of life after nearly a decade-and-a-half as chief. “I’ll think of something. I’m not too worried about it.”

Tourtelotte said Frizzle’s 32 years with the department and background as a communications dispatcher for the Brunswick Police Department made him an obvious choice for the job.

Plus, he said, “he’s a sharp fellow.”

And Frizzle has a memory for most of the dramatic fires in the area in the last 30 years.

He was at the Worumbo Mill in Lisbon when it burned in 1987 and at the Grimmel Industries fire in Topsham in 2009.

Such memory and knowledge of the area are crucial for the position, but Frizzle said the “tremendous group of people” he’ll be leading and the “tight-knit community” are the foundations of the department.

“You find that a lot in small volunteer departments,” he said. “The community is the basis of it all. We have a tremendous group of people to work with, from fire, EMS, the auxiliary. It’s a big responsibility, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

And he knows where to go if he has any questions. Frizzle works with Brunswick Fire Chief Ken Brillant and his deputy chiefs, and for years has responded to fires with Topsham, Freeport and Bowdoin fire chiefs, among others — all of whom he said can answer any questions he might have.

And just a phone call away — or perhaps dropping in on a Monday night training session — are two former chiefs — including his dad — who still can’t get the fire out of their blood.

But they’re confident that the new chief has the department well in hand, Tourtelotte said.

“All in all, we’ve got a good department. And with Fudd taking over, he’s going to do an excellent job.”

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