Why did you decide to become a firefighter?
As a small boy, I was always excited when my mother would chase the firetrucks so we could see the fire. Later on my brother Walter, joined the fire department. I watched and became even more interested. I joined the department as a volunteer in 1985 and loved how satisfying it was to help other people in their time of need. I accepted a fulltime position in January of 1989 filling the position of retiring EE/Eng Ronald Smith.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
There is a saying I have heard many times…. “You never know what the day will bring”. This is very true in the fire service, and an aspect which makes this career so rewarding. Being able to respond when someone is in need, and making a difference that will hopefully make their worst day a little better, is a reward many people may never experience. Just recently we had a structure fire where we were able to keep the building standing despite being a total loss due to the fire, water damage, and overhall to extinguish the fire. The tenants were able to salvage small bits of their lives. No matter what the incident is, seeing that look on someone’s face, that look that they feel safe even though things are not perfect…. That’s when you know you’ve made a difference. Throughout my career I have had numerous opportunities to give back to the community in the different aspects of what we do in the fire service from public education to life safety inspections to fire suppression.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Meeting the needs of an ever growing community with a diminishing firefighter population. This is not just an Ellsworth issue but one felt nationally. Our roster has gone from 40 members to 25 throughout my career. The time commitment and demands to be a firefighter today are much more than there were 30 years ago. To be a volunteer firefighter is like having a second fulltime job with very little or no pay. With many people working two jobs to make ends meet and simply having a family life, we are competing with “life”.
What do you value most about Ellsworth?
I love that Ellsworth is still small enough that you know so many people, or are connected in some way. And even if you don’t know someone there is still a small town connection. In many ways that connection extends beyond the borders of Ellsworth to our surrounding communities. The City of Ellsworth has so many opportunities ahead and I am grateful to be a small part of what we have and what we can be.
How do you plan to celebrate your 30th anniversary?
Probably with a bowl of popcorn and a full night’s sleep, with no calls.
Congratulations to Chief Tupper for serving 30 years with the Ellsworth Fire Department.