AUGUSTA — The city’s top firefighter has been recognized as the best chief in the state.

Fire Chief Roger Audette was recently named fire chief of the year by the Maine Fire Chiefs’ Association. The honor is the first for Audette, who has served as the city’s chief for five years.

“I’m pretty humbled by it, actually,” Audette said.

The chiefs association every year picks a member of its ranks who has distinguished himself in a number of areas, including civic involvement, years of service, training and certification, said Kennebunk Fire Chief Stephen Nichols, who served as president of the Maine Fire Chiefs’ Association at the time of Audette’s recognition. A committee formed of fire chiefs and a municipal official reviews a number of applications during the selection process. Larry Bradley, the only other Augusta chief to earn the award, was selected in 2000.

Nichols, who was not on the selection committee that chose Audette but is familiar with the process and counts Audette as a friend, said the Augusta chief embodies the spirit of the award. Nichols noted improvements made to the fire and rescue service, career goals Audette has achieved and his dedication to the city.

“He really cares for his staff and watches out for them,” Nichols said.

Audette, 48, has served the Augusta department for 20 years.

“I’m the guy who hired Roger and promoted him from battalion chief to chief and have been his boss for the past five years,” said City Manager William Bridgeo. “He’s just done a spectacular job . . . and exemplifies the attributes the state chiefs look for when they single somebody out for recognition.”

Bridgeo, who helped nominate Audette for the award, cited the chief’s dedication to the community, his high personal standards, his energy and his creativity.

“They’re all traits we admire in Augusta,” Bridgeo said.

Audette said the job of the chief has grown more challenging over the years. Departments are now forced to keep more rigorous standards of training while dealing with shrinking budgets and an increase in calls.

“It’s definitely a tough job,” Audette said. “When other people take time to recognize you it certainly means a lot.”

Nichols was named chief of the year in 2011. He still struggles to describe the significance of the moment.

“It’s an honor you just can’t imagine,” Nichols said. “It’s a recognition of all your peers in the whole state. It’s quite an achievement.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642
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