SKOWHEGAN — Firefighters tend to be a tight-knit bunch.

The Skowhegan Firefighters Association is showing that this month with a benefit dinner and auction for Fire Chief Tom Keene.

Keene, who has been chief in Skowhegan for 21 years, lost both of his legs to complications from diabetes. Proceeds from the benefit will be used to make Keene’s home handicapped-accessible, Capt. Shawn Howard said.

“We’re a very close group of firefighters. We stick together,” Howard said. “We’ve been through hard times and this isn’t easy with Tom’s illness, but we just keep moving forward, take it day by day.”

Keene, whose right leg was amputated below the knee two years ago, was taken to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston Sept. 19, where he underwent emergency surgery to amputate the lower part of his left leg because of infection, Howard said.

Complications of diabetes include poor blood circulation, which can lead to severe tissue damage.

Keene managed to get around and continue his job as fire chief with a prosthetic leg and crutches following the first surgery, Howard said. Keene remains in the hospital this week awaiting a possible next round of surgery, he said.

“Tom is a proud guy,” Howard said. “This is a man who has spent his entire life in the fire service from the time he was a teenager. He grew up in the fire service.”

Keene first worked as a firefighter in Norridgewock where his father, Winton Keene Sr., was the chief. He’s been a firefighter 42 of his 58 years.

Since 1976, he’s worked for Skowhegan and became chief in 1992. He retired from the fire department in 2001, but later returned as chief in 2008.

The benefit supper and auction starts with a social hour at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19, at T&B’s Outback Tavern on Madison Avenue. Tickets for the 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. dinner are $7 and the auction that follows is free.

Proceeds from the fundraiser will be used to create a wheelchair-accessible ramp, widen the doorways and modify the bathroom in the home Keene shares with his wife, Sheryl, in Skowhegan, Howard said.

In Keene’s absence, Howard and the other two fire captains, Mike Savage and Rick Caldwell, will share responsibilities running the department.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
[email protected]