Fire chief honored 63 years after his death

Former Winnisquam Fire Chief Chester Brickett will be recognized with Medal of Valor

By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — A fire chief who also served as first president of the Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Association will be honored on Sept. 25 with the Paul Sypek Medal of Valor after formal recognition of his death, more than six decades ago, as having occurred in the line of duty.
Winnisquam Fire Chief Chester Brickett died of a heart attack while returning from a fire call in Laconia on Jan. 14, 1954, but his death had never been recognized as occurring in the line of duty. It took the efforts of two current Mutual Aid members to provide the documentation needed for state Fire Marshal J. William Degnan to officially rule that Brickett’s was a line-of-duty death.
Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Chief Coordinator Jonathan Goldman, who also is a team leader with the Granite State Fire Service Support Team, came across Brickett’s name on a Facebook page managed by John Bolduc of Londonderry, “New England Fire Rescue History On This Date.” After seeing the post about Brickett’s death, Goldman confirmed that his name was not listed on the New Hampshire State Firefighters Memorial in Concord.
Lt. Kevin Nugent who, in addition to serving on the Mutual Aid Association, is a former Winnisquam fire chief, had come across Brickett’s name years earlier while reading historian Warren Huse’s “Our Yesterdays” column.
Nugent joined Goldman in searching internet websites, 1950s-era town reports, and handwritten Mutual Aid meeting minutes to determine the circumstances of Brickett’s death. They also interviewed family members to gain information about the man.
Their research had revealed that, while returning from the fire, Brickett was “stricken behind the wheel” and later died while being transported to the Laconia hospital.
“Richard Rusk was in the passenger seat and was able to apply the brakes and steer the vehicle safely to a stop,” Goldman said.
Brickett’s cause of death was ruled to be a heart attack. He was 51 years old at the time of his death.
They learned that Brickett had served as fire chief in the young fire department for six years. The Winnisquam Fire Department had been established in 1942 to serve the Winnisquam section of Tilton, Sanbornton and Belmont and was funded by annual payments from the three communities.
The Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Association was established in March, 1953, and Brickett served as its first president, continuing until the time of his death.
Despite circumstantial evidence that Brickett was serving as chief at the time of his death, they could not find official documentation of the fact. Then Nugent came across a leather-bound book of hand-written meeting minutes from the Winnisquam Fire Department. Inside, he found a notation saying, “This page to be left blank in memory of our Chief, Chester Brickett. Passed away at the wheel of of the F.M.C. in the line of duty returning from the home of Herbert Ford, South Main Street, Laconia. Jan. 14, 1954.”
The leather book provided the proof they needed to secure the designation of a line-of-duty death for Brickett.
With the designation, Brickett’s name will be engraved on a panel of the N.H. Firefighter’s Memorial and the N.H. Fire Service Committee of Merit will honor him with the Paul Sypek Medal of Honor, the highest award that can be bestowed on any New Hampshire firefighter, during the organization’s annual awards ceremony in September.
“I believe he was one of the original firefighters with the Winnisquam department, and he may have been its second or third fire chief,” Nugent said.
The Winnisquam Fire Department merged with the Belmont Fire Department in August 2006.
Goldman said there are a couple of other names they are researching that also may qualify for official recognition in future years.

07 26 Brickett
Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Association Chief Coordinator Jonathan Goldman, seated, and Lt. Kevin Nugent look through a leather-bound book of meeting minutes that includes a page honoring Winnisquam Fire Chief Chester Brickett who died in the line of duty on Jan. 14, 1954. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Pages of hand-written meeting minutes for the Winnisquam Fire Department have a page left blank to honor Chief Chester Brickett who died in the line of duty on Jan. 14, 1954. (Courtesy Photo)

  • Written by Tom Caldwell
  • Category: Local News
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Traffic shift - Road work at Laconia Bypass may hold up drivers July 31-Aug. 1 (269).

Road work being done around the Laconia Bypass at the Laconia/Belmont line will affect traffic next week, said Chuck Flanders at the state Bureau of Construction.

On Monday, July 31, a traffic lane shift will be implemented on NH 106 following the partial completion of the bridge rehabilitation over US 3 (Laconia Bypass). Traffic lanes will be shifted back to the original configuration. In order to complete the work for this lane shift, one-way alternating traffic will be utilized on NH 106. In addition, the ramp from US 3 (Laconia Bypass) southbound to NH 106 southbound will be temporarily closed and traffic will be detoured, using signs, onto the southbound off ramp at NH 107. Motorists should expect delays and be aware of the detour as well as the subsequent lane shifts on NH 106.

On Tuesday, Aug. 1, a traffic lane shift will be implemented on US3 (Laconia Bypass) following the partial completion of the bridge rehabilitation over NH 107. The northbound and southbound lanes will be shifted back to the original configuration. In order to complete the work for this lane shift, one way alternating traffic will be utilized on US 3 (Laconia Bypass). In addition, the ramp from NH 106 northbound to US 3 (Laconia Bypass) northbound will be temporarily closed and traffic will be detoured, using signs, onto NH 107 and the northbound ramp there. Motorists should expect delays and be aware of the detour as well as the subsequent lane shifts on US 3 (Laconia Bypass).

Because this work includes repainting traffic striping, it must be done under dry conditions, said Flanders. If there is rain during the previously mentioned dates, the work will be rescheduled to the next clear day.

  • Written by Ginger Kozlowski
  • Category: Local News
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Righting a wrong

07 28 new bike Alan MacRae

Seven-year-old Trey Douville is all smiles as he looks over his new bicycle, which was delivered to him by the duty crew of Laconia Fire Department yesterday.  From left are Lt. Jay Ellingson, Firefighter Dan Doucette, Firefighter/Paramedic Jason Griffin, Trey’s mom Tanya and dad John Hill.  (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Laconia firefighters replace bicycle stolen from 7-year-old boy

By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — On Arch Street, just off Union Avenue, firefighters made a special delivery to a 7-year-old boy on Wednesday morning.

Trey Douville's eyes got wide as he examined the brand new BMX-style bicycle that will replace one stolen from outside his house.

As firefighters, his mother, Tanya, and his black puppy, Princess, took in the scene, Trey wasted no time in hopping on his new bike and trying it out. His skills seemed good. No training wheels needed. Seat seemed just the right height.

Pegs on the wheels for BMX tricks? Check. Mom has the instructional manual? Check.

The Laconia Firefighters Union stepped in when a member read a post from Tanya Douville about the sad story of how her son was shattered by the theft of his favorite possession in the world. He rides with an older friend, and sometimes even rides to the Dollar Store with his father.

“We just noticed his bike gone the other day,” she said. “I guess that happens a lot out here.

“We were posting it everywhere. People were sharing it. People were commenting.”

“We're from Franklin and we moved up here a few months ago.”

Firefighter Jason Griffin, head of the union, said the story struck a chord with firefighters and they decided to chip in to help Trey.

The firefighters have only one requirement.

“He has to wear his helmet,” Griffin said.

Tanya Douville had another rule.

“When he's done riding, he has to bring it inside,” she said. “He can't leave it outside anymore.”

She said her son was surprised at the act of generosity.

“He is so grateful.”

  • Written by Rick Green
  • Category: Local News
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