2017-06-08 / Around Town

Middletown Fire Chief to Retire

By Olga Enger

Middletown Fire Chief Ronald Doire, 55, is turning in his badge after a 35-year career. A major accomplishment during his eight years as chief was the new station, which voters approved in the 2012 election. (Photo by Olga Enger) Middletown Fire Chief Ronald Doire, 55, is turning in his badge after a 35-year career. A major accomplishment during his eight years as chief was the new station, which voters approved in the 2012 election. (Photo by Olga Enger) For 35 years, Middletown Fire Chief Ronald Doire’s job was saving lives.

“Being on call 24/7 is hard on me and my family. It was time for a change,” said Doire, 55.

His career began at the Pawtucket Fire Department in 1982. In 2009, Doire took the helm of Middletown, his hometown department. His resignation is effective July 14. As a Middletown resident, Doire said it was challenging to respond to tragedies so close to home.

“It is difficult. It wears on you. Especially in a small community such as this. The majority of the time, when I respond to an incident, I know the person involved or I know someone who is close to them,” he said. “It’s good to live in the same community because you really feel connected to the residents, but it also increases the difficulty with tragedy and loss.”

A pair of recent heartbreaking incidents reinforced his decision to retire from fire service.

Last August, the chief responded to a head-on collision on West Main Road in Portsmouth, which critically injured three people, including two children. Doire knew the victims.

“I didn’t realize there was a connection when I arrived on-scene. I found out later. Dealing with tragedy that is that close makes it more difficult,” he said.

A week after the accident, a catastrophic fire in Middletown took the life of 7 year old Ramon Arroyo. In the days after the fire, Doire described the mood of the fire department as “complete devastation.”

To continuously be on call also takes a toll. As fire chief, he is expected to respond to all major incidents at any hour of the day.

“It’s a busy department, so that becomes really difficult,” he said.

The department responds to approximately 3,000 emergency calls every year, with the majority of the incidents related to medical emergencies or car accidents. Additionally, the fire marshal and inspector are sent out on around 1,000 annual calls.

“At any hour, I’m expected to respond,” said Doire. Last Thanksgiving, he received a call during dinner, and left his family and friends at the table. Although the chief is retiring, he does not plan to pass his days fishing or golfing.

“I’m going to keep working for at least the next 10 years. I’m planning to do something completely different. I have a couple different options that I’ve been exploring, but I don’t want to comment on the specifics at this point. I love to work; I love keeping busy,” said Doire.

In his new career, he hopes to spend more time with his wife of 26 years, Sally, and their daughter, Claire, who will be a sophomore at Boston University in the fall. Neglected projects around the house will also get his attention, he laughed.

Despite the hardships of the role, Doire said his tenure with the department was also chock-full of positive experiences.

“The obvious highlight was building the new fire station. It was a great project. We are really pleased with how it came out,” he said. “It certainly was taxing, but it was well worth the effort.”

Doire hit the pavement during the 2012 election to pitch a long-overdue new fire and public works building. His efforts paid off when Middletown voters overwhelmingly approved a $7.5 million bond for the project.

Looking back, Doire said he was grateful to have a colleague who showed him the ropes when he first accepted the position as fire chief.

“When I started, I didn’t know [Middletown Police Chief Anthony] Pesare. He was a great help to me. Being a chief, there are a lot of similarities on the police and fire department. He became a great friend,” said Doire.

The chief is also thankful for a solid and competent boss.

“[Town Administrator] Shawn Brown has been incredibly supportive. He works all his department heads hard, but we get a lot of great things done. As a resident, I’m really happy he’s managing our town. He’s a brilliant guy and he’s really helped in a lot of ways over the years,” he said.

Above all, the most rewarding aspect of the job is working with the firefighters, said the chief.

“The level of customer service that the firefighters provide has always been outstanding. It’s one of the things I enjoy the most. I think they are the best in the state,” Doire said of his department. “I really feel fortunate to have been the chief of Middletown for eight and a half years. It’s difficult, but rewarding.”

His advice to an incoming fire chief is “Don’t forget to listen.”

“It’s one of the things I tried to do when I came here,” said Doire. “I’m never the smartest person in the room. You always need to listen. It’s important to understand that there are always people that have better ideas than I have. The fire station that was built is not my fire station; it’s our fire station. I had a lot of help from the firefighters on the design. It’s a team effort.”

Fire Marshall Robert McCall will serve as interim chief until the role is filled.

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