30 years of fighting and preventing fires: Lt. Rancourt retires from Brattleboro Fire Department
BRATTLEBORO >> Lt. Marty Rancourt joined the Brattleboro Fire Department in June 1982.
He was a member of the call staff until March 1985, when he became a career firefighter.
"I'm going to miss it," Rancourt told firefighters, friends and family gathered at a celebration Tuesday afternoon.
After three decades and one day of service, Rancourt said the biggest changes have to do with equipment. Air packs and personal gear have improved. But more and more products today are being made with plastic.
"Ninety percent of things are plastic now and they just burn faster and hotter and there's more toxic smoke," said Rancourt. "It's the same thing with cars."
His father and brother both served on the Brattleboro department. His father was on the call force while his brother was a full-time firefighter who served as a captain at one point. All three men have a combined 57 years on the department.
Rancourt grew up in Brattleboro, attending Oak Grove Elementary School and Brattleboro Union High School. He was promoted from a firefighter to a lieutenant in 2000, becoming more involved in fire prevention programs and code enforcement along the way. He also participated in programming aimed at preventing juvenile arson incidents.
"Though I knew what kind of a firefighter he was, I didn't realize just how deep it ran," said Brattleboro Fire Chief Mike Bucossi. "He's received many awards and recognitions throughout his career."
Bucossi mentioned an honorable service award for actions Rancourt took with a mentally disturbed woman in 2003; a meritorious unit citation for actions taken during a fire in 2004; a community service award in 2005 for his volunteer work; an award for saving someone's life using CPR in 2009 and another meritorious unit citation for actions taken when a subject was trapped in a barn that collapsed during Tropical Storm Irene.
A woman had written a letter to the department in 2000 saying Rancourt had saved her life when he had driven one of the trucks in front of a vehicle to block it from hitting her on Western Avenue.
"He is certainly an alert, kind and thoughtful man," the woman wrote. "He jeopardized the truck to save me from injury. I am so grateful and thankful for his quick actions."
According to Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland, Rancourt also was the recipient of a Red Cross award for saving the life of a man injured during a hunting accident last year.
"It's clear Marty Rancourt, like all firefighters, is a hero. But for Marty, it appears to be more than just a job," said Moreland. "In addition to his work here at the Brattleboro Fire Department and raising a family, Marty has spent much of the last 10 years working with the Parks and Recreation Board, helping with programming that helps the citizens build community. It seems that's what Marty is all about, building and protecting and improving his community."
For Rancourt, the most rewarding part was seeing positive outcomes and helping the community. Dangerous situations came with the territory.
"When people are running out and we're running in, people say, 'It takes somebody special to do that.' I say, 'No. Just crazy.' We always run into different situations that people don't realize either. You may get turned around in a house that's full of smoke and now you don't know where things are. That's why our training and education comes in handy," said Rancourt. "We've had ceilings collapse. We've had fire flash across our heads."
He did note some burns and broken bones but nothing that kept him hospitalized for too long.
"The town is great to work for," said Rancourt. "This organization we have here is such a tight-knit group. We all get along well and train well. It's been a very positive place to work. It's just one big, happy family."
Bucossi has already asked Rancourt to come back part-time in some capacity but Rancourt wants at least three months off for now. While looking forward to not being on call, he will keep a part-time maintenance job and coach baseball at Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School. He looks forward to spending more time with his family, too. He has a wife, daughter and son.
Rancourt's parting advice to aspiring career firefighters was to make sure they want a career and not just a job.
"There's a difference," he said. "Because you need to enjoy your work. You need dedication for your work."
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