BATH — The city’s longtime fire chief, whose accomplishments include helping to save a father and son from a burning building in February, announced Tuesday that he will retire April 15.
“It’s time,” 57-year-old Steve Hinds said. “Thirty-eight years; it’s a long time.”
Hinds, a West Bath resident who is married and has two adult children and five grandchildren, said he was called “the baby” by fellow firefighters when he started in the service at 19. They would tell him that one of these days, he would wake up and know it was time to retire.
“And you know, one day you get up, and you know it,” Hinds said, chuckling. “… It’s been a good career, I’ve seen a lot of fires, done a lot of things, helped a lot of folks. At 57, with a new grandchild … I’ve done this for quite a while. Maybe it’s someone else’s turn.”
Hinds was born and raised in Bath, where his father was also a firefighter. Following his graduation from Southern Maine Vocational Technical Institute (now Southern Maine Community College), Hinds began his firefighting career in Lewiston in 1976, where he was kept quite busy. Two structure fires in a day was the norm, and made for great on-the-job training, he said.
“You had fires there constantly,” he recalled. “Hundreds of fires in my five years. … But you develop, and really start to enjoy it, and it actually became my life.”
Hinds returned to his roots in 1981 to join the Bath department, where he was promoted to chief in 2002.
He also served as first vice president of the Maine Fire Chiefs Association, receiving Level I certification from the organization in 2003.
In the fire service, “you’re a public servant,” Hinds said. “… You not only get to enjoy assisting the public … you enjoy being with the public. You’re with somebody … all the time. And you’re with them, assisting them, in a positive manner. Even if their house burns down, we’re there trying to help them.”
The job can be strenuous and tedious, “but at the end of the day, you’re helping these folks, and in a lot of communities it’s people you know.”
He called the fire truck “a rolling toolbox. … Because we never know what we’re going to have to use out of a truck. People call us for all kinds of things.”
Next on the horizon? Decompression.
“I probably will work again, or do something,” he said. “But in my position … I’ve been on, wired, 24/7, 365, and I just believe it would be best if I just took a little bit, and … slowed down.”
“Everything’s done at mach 1,” he added, noting that the radio is always going off at home, sending him to the next call. “None of my family, my wife included, know me as anything but a fireman. … This is all they know, and this is all that I’ve done for a long, long time.”
City Manager Bill Giroux said he learned Tuesday morning about Hinds decision to retire. There was no plan yet for how to replace the chief, but one of the department’s four captains will likely be appointed interim chief.
“I really enjoyed working with Steve; he’ll be missed,” Giroux said, noting that Hinds had demonstrated heroism on many occasions.
Earlier this month the City Council issued a proclamation praising Hinds, Capt. Christopher Cummings, and firefighters Shaun Riley, Clifford Newell and Joseph McCole for their roles in rescuing a man and his 4-year-old son from a burning building on South Street in February.
In a statement released Monday by the city, the manager called Hinds “a rock for this City for a long time,” adding that “We’re grateful for his dedication to our community and we all wish him the best.”
Bath Fire Chief Steve Hinds will retire April 15 after 33 years with the department.