Casco fire chief announces retirement

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer

CASCO — On Saturday night, Casco Fire Chief John Small was a bundle of emotions, with tears so close to the surface that his eyes welled up frequently and his voice failed him.

He was not quite the steadfast and collected fire chief most residents have seen over the past 13 years – responding to hairy emergencies, dealing with budget

Casco Fire Chief John Small received Firefighter of The Year award and his 30 Years of Service plaque during the awards banquet at Casco Central Fire Station on Saturday night. During the ceremony, Small officially announced that he will retire as fire chief on June 30 of this year. (De Busk photo)

issues, or assisting with multiple-community fire trainings.

During the department’s annual awards banquet, Small formally and tearfully announced his retirement and his intentions to leave Casco.

“You’ve heard the rumors that I am about to retire,” he said.

“We are selling our house and moving south. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Small said of his plans to put his home on the market and relocate to Mississippi with his wife.

He will retire on June 30. Nominations for his replacement will open in May – with a decision being made during a business meeting in early June, he said.

Small, 44, has served with Casco Fire and Rescue Department since 1994 and stepped into the position of fire chief in 1998. Prior to moving to Casco, he volunteered with the Naples Fire and Rescue Department.

Small said the reality of saying good-bye hit him hard when it came time to make public his retirement plans.

“It was very hard to stand in front of a group of peers – people who are just like brothers and sisters to me,” he said.

“I’ll still have them as friends, but I won’t see them on a weekly basis. When I move, I won’t see them anymore, but I’ll stay in contact with them all,” Small said. “They are like family to me.”

“We’ve had a lot of accomplishments in the 13 years I’ve been chief,” he said. “During my first year as chief, we started paying firefighters per call. In the past decade, we’ve replaced three trucks, we’ve updated the fire apparatus fleet, and we have an outstanding mutual aid agreement with all of ßthe surrounding communities.”

“It’s been very rewarding serving a great community like Casco,” Small said.

He contributed some of the joys of the job to the good working relationship with Town Manager Dave Morton and the Board of Selectmen over the years.

“David (Morton) has been a huge help. I’ve been able to talk to him about anything and everything,” Small said. “He has helped me progress in this position.”

Morton gave kudos to the entire fire and rescue department – especially for its ability to keep rolling forward despite fewer dollars.

“This is a difficult time for people in public service. We are all doing more with less,” Morton said.

“One of the things we can rely on - no matter what turmoil is going on - is the fire and rescue people,” he said.

Raymond Fire Chief Denis Morris half joked his own retirement wasn’t far behind Small’s.

“When I started in Portland, I had a fire hydrant in every corner of the city. Then, I moved to Raymond and had to re-adjust,” Morris said.

“Every time I came to Casco, John made me feel welcome,” Morris said, adding there were a lot of people who didn’t make him feel very welcome as the new fire chief in town.

“A few years down the road, we will really miss John and remember what a great guy he is,” Morris said.

Please follow and like us: