Donald A. “Don” Hastings, 88, a firefighter from New York who, upon his retirement to Jefferson in 1991, contributed to the modernization of training for volunteer firefighters in Lincoln County, died Friday.
Hastings was still a safety officer with Jefferson Fire and Rescue at the time of his death.
His community service started in his youth, when he joined the Tallman Volunteer Fire Department in New York.
A native of Tallman, Hastings was born May 18, 1930. He served in the U.S. Navy, enlisting in 1948 and receiving an honorable discharge in 1954.
Hastings moved to Spring Valley after his time in the Navy and joined Columbian Fire Engine Company No. 1, working as Spring Valley deputy fire chief from 1960-1962 and fire chief from 1962-1964, according to his obituary.
After his time as fire chief, he worked as deputy fire coordinator and, from 1977-1991, fire coordinator for Rockland County, New York.
As deputy fire coordinator, he would respond to large fires and other incidents to assist local fire chiefs and to coordinate the response of emergency medical services, fire, police and other agencies.
As fire coordinator, he managed the county’s mutual aid system, dispatch system, and the operation of the Rockland County Fire Training Center in Pomona. It was the training center where many Lincoln County firefighters would later receive advanced training, thanks to Hastings.
He moved to Jefferson with his wife, Patricia, in 1991, when he joined Jefferson Fire and Rescue, according to Jefferson Fire Chief Walter Morris.
The connection between Morris and Hastings predates their time in Maine.
Morris hails from Monsey, New York, a town neighboring Spring Valley. He moved to Jefferson in 2006 and became fire chief in 2010.
“I’ve known Don my whole life,” Morris said. “I walked past his house every day on my way to elementary school.”
Morris’ father was an officer on the Monsey Fire Department while Hastings was an officer on the Spring Valley Fire Department. As Morris became involved in the fire service, he got to know Hastings at fire scenes.
Morris attended his first training at the Rockland County training center while a member of the Monsey Fire Department.
“When I graduated college with a fire science degree, Don hired me as a part-time fire instructor,” Morris said. “Over the next couple years, they needed a full-time employee, and I took on that position for 15-16 years.”
When Hastings moved to Maine and joined the Jefferson department, he learned local firefighters did not have many opportunities for training.
He worked with the Lincoln County Fire Chiefs Association and then-Lincoln County Emergency Management Agency Director Jerry Silva to set up bus transportation for firefighters from the midcoast to the Hudson Valley to undergo advanced training at the Rockland County center.
Morris was still working at the center at the time.
“When Don moved to Jefferson, he called me up to set something up to bring some guys from Jefferson and neighboring departments down to the training center since Maine didn’t have the same type of academy or hands-on training,” Morris said.
The program proved popular with Lincoln County firefighters.
“Every other year we had a busload of firefighters go down and get hands-on training,” Morris said.
Morris said the first firefighters from Lincoln County visited the training center in 1992, with the first busload arriving in 1994.
The program continued until about 2006, when training opportunities in Maine, including the formation of the Lincoln County Fire Academy in 2007, allowed local firefighters to receive instruction closer to home.
Waldoboro Fire Chief Paul Smeltzer described Hastings as an ambassador for the Lincoln County firefighting community.
“The Waldoboro and Jefferson fire departments have always had a great working relationship and going back to before I was chief, Don was always very supportive and everybody’s friend,” Smeltzer said.
Boothbay Fire Department Capt. David Pratt, operations chief with the Lincoln County Fire Academy, said Hastings was a go-to guy any time an area department was in need.
“He was a strong supporter of fire training. You name it, he would see to it that it happened,” Pratt said.
Alna Assistant Fire Chief Roger Whitney described Hastings as a key figure in the modernization of the Lincoln County fire service.
“It all began with midcoast-area firefighters doing training in New York. It really helped bring our county fire departments up to the standards we have today,” Whitney said. “He helped get us advanced training we couldn’t get anywhere else. He was very instrumental for that.”
As a firefighter, Hastings would take on any task at a scene, Whitney said.
“He would be an incident commander or out directing traffic. That’s the sort of guy Don Hastings was. He was a huge inspiration to all of us in the fire service,” Whitney said.
As a person, Hastings was friendly and cheerful.
“He was a wonderful man. He always, always, always was friendly and thought the best of us. He always had a smile on his face and would be the first to pat you on the back,” Whitney said.
Newcastle Fire Chief Clayton Huntley said a number of Newcastle firefighters benefited from training opportunities in Rockland County.
“It was a really good program. It had a big impact. They had a burn building, a live fire building, that was a really big help,” Huntley said.
Huntley said local firefighters’ experience in Rockland County led to the fire academy’s acquisition of its own burn building at the fire academy.
Huntley said he got to know Hastings at mutual aid calls and at meetings of the fire chiefs association.
“He was a big part of the fire chiefs association. He was always at every meeting, always right in the middle of it, and at the last fire we had, he was right there at 88,” Huntley said.
Morris praised Hastings’ efforts to bring firefighters from the two states together.
“It has made friendships that still exist to this day [and] built camaraderie that benefited Lincoln County. Departments still use apparatus and equipment donated from Rockland County,” Morris said.
Jefferson has two fire engines from Rockland County and Dresden and Wiscasset have made use of apparatus as well, according to Morris.
In recognition of his volunteer service to the town of Jefferson and fire departments throughout Lincoln County, Hastings was presented with a Spirit of America Award at the Willow Grange in Jefferson in 2017.
Morris described Hastings as a good friend and a dedicated firefighter.
“It was an awesome experience to work with him. I learned a lot from him, right up to the end. Don shared his experiences with other firefighters and stayed active on fire scenes right up to the end,” Morris said.
A funeral service will take place at Jefferson Village School at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13.