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Longtime Fire Chief Ray Parent Remembered

Fire Chief Parent

By Tammy B. Wells, York County media specialist

In June 2002 there was a structure fire on Drake’s Island in Wells, in a spot where older summer cottages are pressed close together on tiny streets and lanes. Standing on the sidelines, watching the scene as Wells firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze, was Sanford Fire Chief Raymond “Ray” Parent.

“This is my classroom,” he said.

At that time, Parent had been a firefighter for 38 years, but he knew there was more to learn, always.

“The more I see, the better I can perform,” he said that day. “I’m watching serious conditions as they occur.”

Parent, 80, who retired from the fire service in early 2011, died at home April 10. He has been described by those who knew him as a family man, a mentor to both new and seasoned firefighters who was possessed of a keen knowledge of human behavior and a sense of humor.

Parent served as fire chief in York County’s two largest communities. He began his career in Biddeford, where he rose through the ranks to serve as deputy chief for eight years and chief for 13, retiring in 1994 after 30 years with the department. He sold fire trucks for a couple of years and then became fire chief in Sanford in 1996, retiring in early 2011.

Along the way he served a stint as interim town manager in Sanford and as director of Sanford Regional Communications. He later served as interim fire and rescue chief in Lebanon.

A U.S. Navy veteran, Parent was a driving force behind the years-long effort to see Southern Maine Veterans Cemetery come to fruition. The cemetery was officially dedicated in Springvale on Aug. 24, 2010. Parent had been president of the Maine Fire Chief’s Association and was long involved with the York County Chief’s Association and had served as its president.

It was during his tenure as fire chief in Biddeford in 1989 that the city broke ground on a new, sorely needed fire station that had been discussed for a decade.

He was named Maine Fire Chief of the Year in 2005. “What I like about Ray is that he’s a straight shooter and a hard worker,” Mark Green, then Sanford’s town manager, said at the announcement that year.

Peter Cutrer, hired by Parent as the Sanford department’s fire marshal in the mid-2000s, said Parent’s counsel was invaluable to other firefighters.

“He was a mentor to me and so many others,” said Cutrer, now a fire instructor. “My favorite teaching point from him was ‘honesty and integrity equals credibility. If you lose one of the first two, you lose the most important one, number three.’”

“Ray was quite a person,” said Jeff Rowe, who served as Parent’s assistant chief in Sanford and succeeded him as chief. “He had his opinions and people had opposing opinions and often Ray was more correct in the long run. He impacted a lot of young people and older people in the fire service. He provided a lot of people with a lot of opportunity, and I am certainly one of them.”

Services were held April 20 in Sanford. Burial will take place at a later date. Parent’s obituary is available here.

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