AUGUSTA — Battalion Chief Ed Charles retired from the Augusta Fire Department June 15 after 25 years of service and took off for North Dakota. There, he indulged in one of his favorite hobbies, horseback riding.

He took part in the annual Fort Seward Wagon Train, a six-day, almost 80-mile trek in covered wagons and on horseback.

“It’s authentic and rustic,” said Charles, 55, of Rome, “You have to adjust to the period. It’s to depict the early wagon trains that did the Oregon Trail, like Pioneer Days. It’s a great time. I got to ride horseback the whole way.”

His wife Elizabeth opted to walk the entire route this year to mark her third time on the trek, and his daughter, Jessica, was on horseback.

Charles next made a pit stop in northern Minnesota to help build kennels for a veterinarian with whom his daughter is working as a intern this summer.

Then he’s headed back to his home where his son Joseph, an instructor on Guam for the Pacific Islands University, is due to visit soon.

Charles likes travel and adventure.

“My dream is to work in the National Park Service,” he said. “I hope to be a ranger in the Yellowstone region.” He said he’ll start working toward that goal this fall.

“He thinks he’s a cowboy,” said Augusta Fire Chief Roger Audette. “He’s always wearing cowboy stuff.”

Charles had been with the Pittsburgh Fire Department before coming to Augusta and remained loyal to the western Pennsylvania team.

“He’s a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan in a house full of Patriots’ fans,” Audette said.

In Augusta, Charles specialized in handling hazardous material and technical rescue calls, including water rescues, Audette said, adding that he brought a lot of that experience from Pittsburgh.

“He always looked out for his people to see that they made it through the call safely,” Audette said.

“There were several water rescues in the Kennebec River after some folks jumped off the bridge.”

At recent meeting of Augusta City Council, Charles told councilors he was welcomed to the city and the department with open arms when he arrived 25 years ago, and will miss them in his retirement.

He joined just before a historic flood filled the downtown streets and a few months before a spectacular fire destroyed the sprawling Edwards Mill complex at the current site of Mill Park.

Capt. Scott Dunbar was promoted to the battalion chief post formerly held by Charles. Other battalion chiefs are Dan Guimond, Steve Leach and Dave Groder.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

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