Maine Firefighter Honored For 50 Years of Service

May 9, 2013
At 72-years-old, Farmington Firefighter Douglas Oliver has been in the fire service longer than many members have been alive.

May 09--FARMINGTON -- When firefighters were called out to help search for a missing child Saturday night, Douglas Oliver was halfway to Skowhegan to celebrate his May 4 birthday.

He came back to town.

That's part of the dedication he's given to Farmington Fire and Rescue for 50 years.

"He's very dedicated and a great person," fire Chief Terry Bell said of the milestone that was recognized during the department's Tuesday meeting.

They gave Oliver a clock on the anniversary date of his joining, May 7, 1963, Bell said.

Oliver, 72, drives the trucks and runs the pumps, tasks that can be quite busy, he said. He also works all day Wednesday as a per diem for the department.

Members acknowledged some haven't been alive as many years as Oliver has served, Bell said.

"The only way to get rid of me is to kick me out," Oliver told them.

He likes to joke and can give as well as receive, Bell said.

Growing up in Farmington, the fire station was a familiar place as his father, Richard, served 20-plus years and his uncle, Robert "Apple" Oliver, served 53 years, he said. They both liked driving the trucks.

"I was interested because they were there," Oliver said about joining. "I also like doing it."

Oliver has seen a lot of changes in the department over the years.

Pointing to pictures of former chiefs, Oliver remembered how firefighters would all respond to the station for a fire call.

Depending on the fire, the chief would choose truck drivers and a couple others to help, and the rest were sent home, he said.

"They would still come back time and time again," he said. "That's part of the devotion to the company. Doing what you need to do."

Being sent home would probably discourage membership today, he added.

Joining the department has also changed.

Previously, an applicant would serve as a rookie for a probationary period. While fully involved in the work of the department, they remained a rookie until there was an opening.

When the time came, the whole department voted whether to accept a person as member, he said. Each member dropped a ball into a little black box with a small round hole. If there was a black ball tossed in, the person was not accepted.

Some would come back and try again. It swayed members when they saw the person was really interested, Oliver said.

Now there's a hiring committee that goes over applications but the fire chief has the final say, he said.

Safety measures and training have greatly improved, Oliver said.

There was basically no training when he started. There was no budget for it, he said. Firefighters wore rubber jackets and old hats and some had no hats, he said. They responded to fires wearing shoes or sneakers.

There were fewer calls then too. Forty calls a year was a big year. For his father to bring home $100 for the year was big, he said.

Oliver also puts other talents to work, cooking for department meals and barbecues and helping with the booth at Farmington Fair. His carpentry skills were used to build several bookcases for the office.

He continues the per diem work because it keeps him involved and aware of changes. He also likes doing it.

"I could work more, but that isn't why I retired," he said.

He is a retired millwright from the paper mill in Jay where he worked 38 years.

In his spare time, Oliver and his wife work on their home where they raised two boys and two girls.

He also maintains a booth featuring his collection of carpenter tools at Old Ford Antiques on Wilton Road.

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Copyright 2013 - Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine

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