FAIRFIELD — The Town Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to appoint a veteran of the Fire Department as the town’s fire chief.

The Fairfield Town Council has appointed Lt. Travis Leary, 40, as the chief overseeing fire operations for Fairfield and Benton. Photo courtesy of Lt. Travis Leary

Lt. Travis Leary, who has been with the department for 26 years, was named to lead fire operations for the department, which serves Fairfield and Benton. He replaces Duane Bickford, who retired in September after 23 years as fire chief.

Leary, 40, wrote in an email that he wants to prioritize recruitment to address the department’s ongoing problems related to its staffing shortage.

“To provide a great service to the residents, we need to have the proper staffing levels,” Leary said. “This will also help with the retention of staff by ensuring staff have an improved working environment. Increased staffing will allow for more call sharing.”

The Fairfield fire station is staffed at the same level as it was in 1976, Leary said, but the number of calls for service keeps rising. The number of calls so far this year is about 1,800, but they only reflect walk-ins at the station and when firefighters are called out for service. The number does not include requests for certain services, such as inspections, blood pressure checks or fire prevention activities.

Leary is scheduled to begin in his new role Nov. 1 at an annual salary of $79,000. He has a degree in fire science from Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor and is a licensed advanced emergency medical technician.

The fire chief in Fairfield also serves as the emergency management director and forest fire warden for Fairfield and Benton.

Leary said he wants to expand the department’s training program and apply for grants to boost funding for firefighting efforts, including buying equipment and gear.

“As a kid growing up, my answer to the question of what do you want to be when you grow up, was always, ‘A firefighter,'” said Leary, who lives in Clinton with his wife, Kristal, and three children. “I look forward to growing our department and growing the relationship with our community.”

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