Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, April 10, 2014
Stonington has new fire chief
New Stonington Fire Chief Ryan Hayward is the youngest in the department. He joined as soon as he turned 18 and took over as captain in March 2014. “I’ve worked around a lot of good people,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of chiefs come through.”
by Anne Berleant
There may be a new fire chief at the fire station, but Ryan Hayward definitely isn’t a new face—he’s been a volunteer firefighter since 1994.
Hayward’s election as fire chief was announced at town meeting on March 3. He stepped into the role held for 13 years by former Chief David Thompson.
“I planned on doing it eventually, but I didn’t realize it would be this soon,” Hayward said.
He joined the department as soon as he turned 18. But, as a third-generation volunteer at the department, he’s been hanging around the station since long before that.
“I’ve been in this department since I could walk,” he said in a recent interview.
But some things don’t change: “When that tone goes off, your adrenaline starts,” he said. “You don’t know if someone’s trapped in [a] house or car.”
Hayward is the youngest firefighter at the station, and he has seen the number of volunteers dwindle.
“When I was a kid, we had a lot of members,” he said. Now, the biggest challenge is recruiting new volunteers.
“It’s that way everywhere,” he said.
Firefighting is a big responsibility, with many hours of training, Hayward explained. “It is a commitment, once you start.”
Changes in equipment, such as thermal imaging cameras, are “a big advantage,” he said. “If you have someone in a building, it shows [where he or she is]. It shows fires in the wall.”
The volunteers end up buying new equipment for the department themselves. “A lot of the stuff, we’ve bought out of our own pockets,” Hayward said.
Hayward stresses cooperation with neighboring departments, such as the Deer Isle Fire Department. “We have a good relationship with Deer Isle,” he said. “We may have different trucks, but they all do the same thing.”
The Stonington Fire Department has four trucks. The newest is a tanker, Engine 2, bought in 2011. The oldest is Engine 1, also a tanker, purchased in 1986. “She’s starting to show her age,” Hayward said.
While he likes driving the fire trucks, Hayward said “you have to have a feel if you want to [drive].”
His 8-year-old daughter, Riley, may have that feel. “She’s always liked to ride the trucks,” he said.
Another family member, his grandfather Sterling Steele, is still active in the fire department, said Hayward.
“I’ve worked around a lot of good people,” he said, “I’ve seen a lot of chiefs come through.”