Maine fire chief retires after 27-year career

By Randy Billings
Portland Press Herald

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s largest city will soon need a new fire chief.

David Jackson will retire at the end of the month, completing a 27-year career with the Portland Fire Department, including two years as chief, the city said Tuesday morning in a news release.

“Chief Jackson has had an impressive and long career with the Portland Fire Department,” City Manager Jon Jennings in a written statement. “It’s been a pleasure working with him for the last two and a half years, and I’m really grateful that he stepped up to the chief’s role when we needed him.”

Jennings will soon name an interim chief.

After joining the city as a firefighter in 1990, Jackson was promoted in 2004 to lieutenant serving mostly out of the Stevens Avenue station on Ladder 3, according to the city. Six years later, he was promoted to deputy chief and worked as special operations chief focusing mainly on the Air Rescue and Marine Division operations.

In 2011, he transferred on to a platoon, focusing on emergency response along with administrative duties. In June 2014, he was promoted to Assistant Chief of Emergency Operations where he oversaw all personnel that serve and respond to emergencies and department training, the city said.

After four months as interim chief, Jackson took over as the post full-time in February 2016, seeming to stabilize a department that had faced scrutiny over excessive overtime and two accidents with the city’s fire boat that resulted in over $140,000 in damage.

His term began two years after the Noyes Street fire, which killed six young people. It was Maine’s deadliest fire in four decades and led to the creation of the Housing Safety office, which was tasked with coordinating inspections between the city’s code and fire departments.

Jackson was also part of a change in leadership that helped resolve an impasse between the city and the firefighters union, which had been working two years without a contract.

“There aren’t many people that can say they gave 27 years to their community,” said Chis Thomson, president of the Portland Fire Fighters Local 740. “Chief Jackson’s commitment is admirable and we wish him luck in his well-deserved retirement.”

Meanwhile, the city’s emergency responders continue to battle the opioid epidemic, which was explored in-depth in the Maine Sunday Telegram series, “Lost,” on the front lines.

Jackson was paid $115,100 in 2016, according to city payroll records.

“I’m so proud and honored to have served as Chief of this great department,” said Chief David Jackson. “It’s been a pleasure to have worked everyday serving this great community and to watch our men and women provide such a crucial service. I know the people of Portland are in good hands.”

The city recently released a report that recommended rebuilding the five of the city’s aging fire stations.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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