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Retired fire chief honored for 30 years of service

Retired Fire Chief James Hayes and his proud family pose for memorable photos and admire the red fire engine cake during his retirement celebration last Saturday at Gunstock. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
May 26, 2010
Gilford Fire Chief of 30 years James Hayes retired in May and was honored last Saturday at Gunstock with a luncheon and presentations filled with memories and appreciation for Hayes's safety and fire services.

"I have biological and extended family here today," said Hayes in response to the overwhelming turnout.

Almost 100 people came to the retired chief's one last hoorah, including Hayes's wife, children, and extended family members, along with Police Department staff, and Gilford selectmen.

Hayes said he was deeply honored to see that the deputy chief and captain he worked with in his early years as a firefighter also attended the event.

"It's a big honor to have all these people show up. The success of my career is due to the majority of people in this room," said Hayes. "You don't do the fire service individually; it's usually a large team effort. It means a lot to see the people that helped me start my career, will watch me end it."

Hayes said his two roommates from college even made it to his celebration, one of whom is the retired fire chief of Belmont.

"I've had a 30 year career (in Gilford) and it doesn't seem possible that so much time has passed. I enjoyed it and I can look back on it and never feel like I wasted any of my time. It was a good time, but it is time to be done," said Hayes.

Chairman of the Gilford Board of Fire Engineers William Akerley opened up the celebration with a speech, and said Hayes has helped change the fire service world for the better.

"He has impressed us with his commitment to the town, to the people, and has saved the town money. He is equipped on Gilford's realistic needs, yet the commitment to his staff is the greatest," said Akerley. "We are better off because of you, and John Beland will be a better chief because of you."

Gilford Selectman John O'Brien took the stand next, and thanked Hayes for his dedication to the town. If Hayes's career could be summed up in a movie title, O'Brien said it would be called "Being There."

O'Brien said if there was a house fire, Hayes was there. He commended Hayes for his training practices, and said he has always led the Fire Department, and others, in the right direction.

"Finally, as chief, everyone will be a better person because of you 'Being There,'" concluded O'Brien in his speech, who then presented Hayes with a plaque.

Lieutenant Robert Bryant of New Hampshire Fish and Game said his relationship with Hayes as a colleague goes back 30 years. When Hayes was Deputy Chief, and showed up on the scene of a search and rescues, Bryant always felt more reassured.

"I always sighed with relief when I saw Jim at the scene," said Bryant. "I appreciate your support over the years. It meant a lot."

Tilton-Northfield Fire Chief Stephen Carrier, representing the New Hampshire Association of Fire Chiefs, has a history that goes way back with Hayes as well.

"I had the opportunity to work with Jim for 10-12 years. He was the first person to let me know something about myself, I didn't know myself," said Carrier, who found that Hayes was one of his main supporters when he first immersed himself in fire services. "I appreciate how he approaches issues, and the energy he approaches them with."

On behalf of the association, Carrier then presented Hayes with the life membership card.

Chief of the Laconia Fire Department Kenneth Erickson, who has worked closely with Hayes, said he has known him for almost a decade now, and was honored to be able to share the good, the bad, and the emotional times with the Gilford Department.

Other speakers included Robert Donnelly, fire investigator from the Fire Marshal's office, who presented Hayes with a fire bucket, the Assistant Chief Edward Consentino from the Alton Fire Department, and Gilford Fire Rescue staff members who shared presentations during the celebration.

Varney Smith
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