2015-10-16 / Front Page

Thurlow is state’s top fire chief

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


B. Michael Thurlow B. Michael Thurlow It was somewhat of a foregone conclusion that Fire Chief B. Michael Thurlow would be a fire services professional. Since he was little, he wanted to be a firefighter. After watching his father, uncle and grandfather serve as Scarborough firefighters, there was no question in Thurlow’s mind that he would follow in their footsteps.

“If you lived in the neighborhood, you were expected to help out when the calls came in,” said Thurlow, who grew up in the Pine Point neighborhood.

Thurlow started with the fire department in 1976 as a 16-year-old probationary member of the Pine Point Fire Company. From there he climbed the ranks and two weeks after Sept. 11, 2001 took over as chief.

“It was a family tradition,” Thurlow said of firefighting. “I am a third-generation firefighter. My son is the fourth generation to serve the town.”


Scarborough Town Councilors William Donovan and Shawn Babine, Town Manager Tom Hall and Brunswick Fire Chief Ken Brillant were among the officials on hand for the annual awarding of Maine Fire Chiefs Association’s Fire Chief of the Year award. This year that honor went to B. Michael Thurlow, who has been Scarborough fire chief since 2001. (Courtesy photo) Scarborough Town Councilors William Donovan and Shawn Babine, Town Manager Tom Hall and Brunswick Fire Chief Ken Brillant were among the officials on hand for the annual awarding of Maine Fire Chiefs Association’s Fire Chief of the Year award. This year that honor went to B. Michael Thurlow, who has been Scarborough fire chief since 2001. (Courtesy photo) Fire service has come a long way since Thurlow first got involved 40 years ago. When he started there were limits on how many members each fire company could have. Each company, at the time, was made up of 20 badge members — the most senior firefighters — 10 reserve firefighters and 10 probationary members.

Now the department as a whole is largely staffed by volunteers, but unfortunately as call volumes have gone up, volunteerism has remained stagnant.

Thurlow’s 40 years of dedication to firefighting was honored at the Maine Municipal Associations annual conference Oct. 7, where he was named the Maine Fire Chiefs Association’s 2015 Fire Chief of the Year.


Scarborough Fire Chief B. Michael Thurlow (left) accepts the 2015 Fire Chief of the Year award Oct. 7 from Brunswick Fire Chief Ken Brillant, president of the Maine Fire Chiefs Association. (Courtesy photo) Scarborough Fire Chief B. Michael Thurlow (left) accepts the 2015 Fire Chief of the Year award Oct. 7 from Brunswick Fire Chief Ken Brillant, president of the Maine Fire Chiefs Association. (Courtesy photo) Thurlow is the third fire chief from southern Maine to be named Fire Chief of the Year. South Portland Fire Chief Kevin Guimond won in 2010 and former Kennebunk Fire Chief Stephen Nichols, Sr. won in 2011. Windham Fire Chief Charlie Hammond was awarded top fire chief last year.

“I am thrilled to see him win this. I can’t imagine anyone being more deserving,” Police Chief Robert Moulton said. “I can’t imagine anyone more deserving. The amount of time and effort he puts into his job, the planning he does in Scarborough, within the state and with other area fire departments is just outstanding.”

Glenn Deering, the department’s deputy chief of fire operations who attended the convention with Tony Attardo, deputy chief of emergency medical services, said Thurlow’s friends, colleagues and family were able to keep the honor a surprise, something that was not easy to do.

“They did a good job keeping it from me,” Thurlow said.

Thurlow never expected the honor, which he said is typically given to people on the verge of retirement, something that he indicated is a long ways off.

“I was excited to see who was going to be honored. I had no clue it was going to be me until they started reading some of the biography and I heard Pine Point,” Thurlow said.

While he was the one who earned the title, Thurlow said it is an honor that the entire Scarborough Fire Department should take pride in.

“It’s nice to be recognized by your peers, but fire service is a team business. This is nothing I did on my own,” he said. “None of this is possible without the folks I have here. They are the ones who nominated me. I lead a group. What we accomplish is done as a team.”

Deering said nevertheless Thurlow is worthy of the honor.

“It’s well deserved given all the committee work he’s done in town and across the state. He takes his job seriously in what he does. It’s a lot of hard work. It’s well deserved, that’s for sure,” Deering said.

Thurlow serves on the Maine Fire Chiefs Association’s Board of Directors and has been appointed by Gov. Paul LePage to serve on the Maine Fire Protection Services Commission and E-911 Council.

Both Deering and Moulton said Thurlow’s dedication to his work is nothing short of admirable.

Deering, who has been friends with Thurlow since they were in middle school, said Thurlow has “a lot of pride in fire service and a lot of pride in this town.”

“He truly loves what he does. He has devoted his whole life to this and it shows,” Moulton said.

Thurlow said it is the feeling of giving back to the community and helping those in need that has inspired him to continue in fire services.

“There is a lot of opportunity for self satisfaction. Knowing you are helping people. That’s what keeps you going in this business,” he said.

Attardo said Thurlow has been an advocate for not only Scarborough, but the entire state when it comes to providing the best fire protection possible.

“He not only works hard for our department, but for fire service throughout the state,” he said. “He’s pretty articulate when it comes to writing grants. He’s won millions of dollars in grants not only for our community, but for Cumberland County as well.”

Thurlow, colleagues said, has been able to foster a strong relationship between the fire department and other municipal departments.

“He has continued to promote unity within our department and with other departments in the town,” Attardo said.

“He is part of the reason we have a great relationship here in Scarborough. That is unusual. I talk to a lot of police chiefs and he talks to a lot of fire chiefs and sometimes the relationship is not always the best. He is a big part we have the working relationship we have,” Moulton said.

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