AUGUSTA — State Fire Marshal John C. Dean announced Thursday he will retire at the end of the month.

Dean, 63, of Winthrop, has been fire marshal since 1998.

Prior to his appointment as fire marshal, Dean served 27 years as a Maine firefighter.

Public Safety Commissioner John Morris praised Dean’s four decades of public service.

“John Dean has spent his entire adult life making this state a safer place,” Morris said in a news release. “His leadership as fire marshal coincided with the two safest years in Maine history for fire deaths and his commitment to fire safety has been recognized at the national level.”

Morris said Assistant Fire Marshal Joseph Thomas will serve as acting fire marshal until a successor is named to replace Dean.

The years with the fewest number of fire deaths in Maine took place in 2010 with nine, and in 2007 with 12 deaths. The average number of fire deaths in Maine annually is 17 and Maine ended 2011 with 23 fire deaths.

Dean retirement comes as amid a new state law that he opposed: the legalization of consumer fireworks.

Gov. Paul LePage’s administration did not allow Dean or anyone from the state marshal’s office to testify on the legislation last year, even as Dean was a vocal opponent.

Dean downplayed that disagreement Thursday and said it did not factor into his decision to retirement.

“The governor’s office knew and this had come up before — I was not in favor of legalizing consumer fireworks,” Dean said Thursday. “But, as I told the (legislative) committee, I’m an advisor to them (the administration) and they’re the decision-makers and they decided to go that route.”

Dean said his decision to retire was based on a desire to “shift gears into something a little less hectic.”

“It’s a pretty stressful job, although the best job I ever had,” he said. “I love it.”

Dean served as president of the National Association of State Fire Marshals; was a board member with the National Fire Protection Association; and has worked with numerous fire and life safety organizations.

He was a member of the Old Town Fire Department from 1971 to 1989, rising to the rank of deputy chief. From 1989 to 1998, Dean served as fire chief for the town of Wells.

Dean oversaw updating Maine’s fire codes to incorporate current editions of National Fire Protection Association standards. He also oversaw the reduction in inspection backlogs by his office of public buildings, daycare centers and nursing homes, according to Morris.

Dean said he and his wife, Carol, plan to continue to live in Winthrop.

“It has been an honor for me to serve as fire marshal,” Dean said in the news release. “My office has worked closely with local fire departments and building inspectors to reduce the risk of fire in the state and to ensure that life safety codes are enforced in public buildings and in new construction. It has been a team effort to work with local fire departments. Improved building codes and fire detection technology has made Maine a safer place to live, work and raise a family.”

Dean said he has no definite plans for retirement, but would like to keep busy with volunteer work.

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