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Hayes: 'I achieved all I wanted to achieve as chief'

Gilford Fire Chief Jim Hayes will retire this spring. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
February 03, 2010
Gilford Fire Chief James Hayes has worked in the realm of fire and safety for 30 years, and now, after a successful career, Hayes said he thinks it is his time to bow out.

Hayes said he can't believe how quickly 30 years can pass, and although he still wants to come to work with fellow firefighters every day, he would rather quit while he is ahead and enjoy the remainder of his time at the very department he has evolved with.

"I still enjoy coming to work. Some think that's the wrong time to leave, but I don't want to wait till then," said Hayes. "It's been a fun time working here. Just like any job, there are difficult times, but I have worked with a great bunch of people. I've had a phenomenal staff to work with," said Hayes. "They are highly dedicated and well trained. It makes my job easier."

He said the Gilford Fire Department has given him many memories along the way, some funny and some sad. He'll never forget the significantly large fires he and his department battled along the way, including commercial building fires that proved challenging.

The now fully staffed department has also grown a lot since Hayes came on board. He said the on-duty staff doubled in size, that additional employees were hired, and shift hours expanded as a result of increased demand for the department's services.

Hayes said he decided to set a personal goal for himself years ago when he began working for the department, and now that he has reached his goals, he feels it is his time to move forward.

"I wanted to work for the town of Gilford for 30 years, and I will finish my 30 years this May," said Hayes. "You have to know when it's time to move on. I set specific goals. I either achieved these goals or the process is under way. I achieved all I wanted to achieve as chief."

Although it is perhaps every firefighter's dream to become chief someday, Hayes said he would have been satisfied with his career at Gilford Fire Rescue, no matter what position he ended up staying in. Either way, Hayes knew his ambition ran in his blood and from his childhood.

"It's an interest I had when I was growing up," said Hayes. "(My family) would all volunteer at the fire department. My uncle, my father – all the men were involved."

Hayes started as a junior volunteer firefighter at the ripe age of 15 in his hometown of Shelburne. After he graduated, Hayes attended a Laconia Tech program and received his associates in fire protection. Right after graduation, Hayes worked for the Concord Fire Department from 1978-80.

Hayes said he met a lot of members of the Gilford Fire Department while working in Concord, and decided to make the move to the Lakes Region to work for Gilford, since his wife also had ties to the area.

In May of 1980, Hayes started off as a firefighter and in 1981 was promoted to lieutenant. In 1987 Hayes was promoted to deputy chief, and then finally promoted to chief in 2005.

"I'm glad I had these opportunities, yet I'm still satisfied with my career here at any stage," said Hayes. "When you start out young, you always want to be chief, but at any points along the way, I would have still felt my career was complete. Each gives you another level of a personal challenge."

Hayes said one of his biggest goals was to change the responsibilities of the deputy chief, which used to focus on public information and safety. Hayes decided to alter these duties and appointed the deputy chief position with intensive training and operations duties. To make up for this shift in responsibilities, the fire department hired a part-time fire inspector to take over prior duties.

"We are looking to do the best we could possible do to keep our people safe," said Hayes. "As chief, this lets me focus on administration and management. It made the department much more efficient in operations."

The Fire Training Facility will soon be a work in progress for Hayes to look forward to as well. He said one of his main goals at the moment is to raise money for the facility, with proceeds from events such as a yard sale around Memorial Day.

"This is one of the areas I am trying to focus on. I am trying to wrap up and finish projects, and hand them off to the next chief," said Hayes.

After Hayes retires he plans to catch up on some projects of his own around the house, and is looking forward to some flexibility in his schedule. He also plans to stay in touch with the department.

Martin Lord & Osman
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