WINSLOW — Longtime firefighter Scott Higgins died unexpectedly Monday at age 49, a loss that officials said would be felt statewide because of his efforts in Maine fire service.

Higgins was a B shift captain for the Winslow Fire Department, according to the town’s website. Town Manager Mike Heavener said Higgins’ death was unexpected, but declined to elaborate on details. Winslow Fire Chief Ronnie Rodriguez did not respond to multiple calls seeking information and firefighters at the Winslow station Tuesday afternoon said they did not wish to comment.

“Scott was intimately involved with the Winslow Fire Department and even throughout the state of Maine in the fire service,” Heavener said. “I think (his passing) is going to leave a big hole not just in our department but statewide. I think he’s going to be missed.”

The Winslow Fire Department announced Higgins’ death on its Facebook page, noting that Higgins “was an integral part of our department who dedicated over 18 years of his life to the service of Winslow and surrounding community. His influence was felt far beyond the borders of our town.”

The memorial service for Higgins is scheduled for Saturday at Centerpoint Community Church at 155 West River Road in Waterville at 2 p.m., according to the department. A muster of fire department personnel, wearing Class A uniforms, will be held at 1:15 p.m. in the church parking lot.

Scott Higgins’ wife, Dawn Hallee-Higgins, did not return a Facebook message seeking comment and calls to the couple’s pet grooming business, Country K9 & Cats, were not answered Tuesday afternoon. The shop will be closed for the rest of the week, according to its Facebook page.

“Please respect the families wishes and refrain from visiting the home and making calls at this time,” the Winslow Fire Department wrote Tuesday on Facebook.

Waterville Capt. Rodney Alderman said the Winslow department will likely release a statement on Higgins’ death in the near future.

At a Town Council meeting Tuesday night, Rodriguez choked up at times as he gave a speech honoring Higgins’ legacy. Several firefighters sat in the audience.

“Scott was more than just a fireman. He ran a Christmas tree farm; he and Dawn operated the kennel; he was a grandfather; he was a consummate professional,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve got to say that the members of this department did everything that they could. Going through these types of calls is difficult at best, but when it’s one of your own it’s even more tasking, and we’re a family and we’re grieving together and working together and supporting each other.”

Winslow fireman Scott Higgins douses flames just off Guilford Transportation’s railroad tracks in Winslow in 2002. The train in the background set off a series of fires along the tracks as it headed south after crossing the Kennebec River into Winslow. Morning Sentinel file photo

Rodriguez thanked the Waterville fire department for “tremendous support in providing coverage while our members recoup and decompress and grieve.” He added that several departments across the state have reached out to support Winslow following Higgins’ death.

“There is a 24-hour watch with Scott right now and that has been without question one of the most moving tributes that anybody could have,” Rodriguez said.

Several people have left posts on Higgins’ Facebook wall grieving his loss.

“Today I lost one of my biggest mentors I’ve had since I started in the fire service,” wrote Paige Ames, a firefighter and EMT for Winslow and public safety dispatcher at the Waterville Communications Center. “Countless pep talks, advice, and laughs were shared with you Scoot. Every little inconvenience I may have had in this field, you were my number one go to person. I can’t even count the number of times I wanted to give up especially in my first year and I went to you ready to quit and you ALWAYS talked me out of it, told me to put my gear back in my car and cut it out then you always ended it with ‘I’m proud of you kid.’ … I’m going to miss having someone like you in my corner and supporting me through my time in the fire service.”

Anthony Barton, a firefighter and paramedic for Augusta’s fire and rescue teams, also shared his memories online.

“Still so hard to believe that you are gone,” he wrote on Higgins’ Facebook page. “14 years ago I started in this career and became your brother.”

Winslow firefighter Scott Higgins says goodbye to fellow firefighters Kevin Fredette, left, and Karl Roy at the fire station in 2005 before the two left for Georgia for three days of training. Fredette and Roy then went to Louisiana to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina. Morning Sentinel file photo

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Rodriguez read a statement by councilor Jeff West, a former Winslow firefighter who worked with Higgins.

“He was a leader and mentor,” West wrote, going on to describe Higgins’ drive to treat everyone like family. “He strived to be the best damn firefighter there was.”

Councilor Ray Caron, who led Tuesday’s meeting in Chairman Steve Russell’s absence, expressed gratitude for Higgins’ service and requested a moment of silence.

“As a former firefighter, I know that the brotherhood of firefighters is very, very strong,” Caron said. “When you lose somebody it is very difficult. From the Town Council I cannot express first of all our gratitude for the service that he gave to the town of Winslow but also the person that he was. From the town of Winslow family, my sympathies and compassion are with the firefighters at this time.”

 


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