CLINTON — After nearly 40 years of service to the town, Fire Chief Gary Petley is stepping down.

But he’s not going far.

Petley, who will turn 61 on the day he retires on March 31, has led the Fire Department for just over 25 years and has been involved with the department for 37 years.

He’s retiring for medical reasons. The 42-year resident of Clinton and 2012 Maine Fire Chief of the Year has been battling leukemia — a type of cancer that affects blood-forming tissues — for the past five years and has been undergoing treatments for the past few years. He said at this point, he’s not able to work the full shifts and doctors recommended he “hang it up.”

“It’s bittersweet, that’s for sure,” Petley said in an interview Wednesday.

Petley said he does not have good red blood cell counts, which means he gets tired easily throughout the course of a day. He goes to the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta for treatments. “I’ve had to do some blood transfusions and bi-weekly injections to rebuild red blood cells,” Petley said.

Through it all, Petley has remained positive. The Anson native moved to Clinton in 1974 with his wife, whom he met in high school, and shortly thereafter joined the Fire Department. He said there are a lot of unique things about Clinton, a town of about 3,500 people and 8,000 cows.

“I certainly like living here, that’s for sure,” said Petley, who has been a member of the Clinton Lions Club for 27 years. “You end up being part of the community, for sure; that’s a great thing.”

During that time, he said he has seen many things change at the Clinton Fire Department.

“When I first got here, the equipment was as technical or as great as it is now,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

Over the years, things changed at the station, which is at 27 Baker St. The department went after and was awarded various grants from sources including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation.

Petley said the greatest achievement of his time as chief has been keeping department’s equipment up to date. The department has replaced firetrucks over the years and seen its equipment improve. He said the department’s upcoming goal is to get funding for replacing a town ambulance. “Unfortunately, I won’t be here for that,” he said.

Petley has been something of a constant in the town. During his time as chief, he’s seen 14 different town managers and numerous selectmen. Department employees have come and gone. And while he said he’s going to miss them all, Petley said he’ll stop in for coffee at the department from time to time.

Aside from his treatments, the longtime Clinton resident now will have to find something he really hasn’t had in the past: hobbies.

“This has been my life for the past 30-something years, especially since I became chief,” he said.

In the immediate future, Petley said, he and his wife plan to do some camping this summer, something they have wanted to do but never could find the time for in the past, as well as some traveling to the coast.

And he’ll remain active in Clinton. He plans to be a lifelong member of the Clinton Fireman’s Association and will be submitting paperwork to become a lifetime member of the Maine Fire Chief’s Association.

“I look forward to this journey,” he said.

With those activities, plus his continued involvement with the Clinton Lion’s Club and the annual agricultural fair the club organizes, Petley will be keeping busy with his retirement.

“The term ‘retirement’ sounds nice, but the reality of it will set in at some point,” Petley said.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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