July 5, 2024

In the public eye: Deputy Fire Chief a key component to public safety in Windham

Editor’s note: This is another in an ongoing series of Windham and Raymond town employee profiles.

By Ed Pierce

Windham Fire Rescue Deputy Fire Chief John K. Wescott never knows what he will encounter on each call but proceeds with the same level of commitment and service every time.

Deputy Fire Chief John K. Wescott has
served with Windham Fire Rescue for
22 and a half years and his job is to
oversee department operations,
provide town fire prevention and
inspections and to manage the
schedules of department personnel.
Wescott has served as a fulltime firefighter in Windham for more than 22 years and is tasked with overseeing department operations, fire prevention and inspections and scheduling of department personnel. It’s a tough assignment, but one Wescott continues to embrace with professionalism and expertise

“In my opinion being firefighter/AEMT is the best job in the world. I love what I do,” Wescott said. “Having a career as a firefighter is very rewarding and some may say it’s more of lifestyle than an occupation. There are many things that I enjoy in fire service, however, helping people when they need it the most is the most rewarding part of the job.”

He says working with the Windham Fire Rescue team is gratifying.

“In command school they always emphasized that your human resources are the most challenging part of leadership,” Wescott said. “In the Windham Fire Rescue Department, we have an outstanding group of men and women, and they make it easy for me in this respect. However, in command school they never taught scheduling. Scheduling folks in a combination fire rescue department is as challenging as it gets. There are many moving pieces to it.”

Born and raised in Westbrook, Wescott graduated from Westbrook High School in 1982. He went on to attend Southern Maine Vocational College where he earned a diploma in Machine Tool Technology. In 1996, he earned an Associate of Science degree in Applied Fire Science from Southern Maine Technical College and in 2014, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Fire Administration from Columbia Southern University.

“At the time I applied to the Town of Windham I was working at the SAPPI paper mill in Westbrook as a sergeant in the plant protection department,” Wescott said. “My older brother was a call firefighter in Windham, and I always heard good things about their progressive department. I caught wind that they were creating a fulltime Deputy Chief position, so I applied.”

The time he spends on duty is demanding and his job is 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days every year.

“It’s a lifestyle that is not for everyone. You have to be committed and all in,” Wescott said. “I’m without a doubt certainly one of the lucky ones. I am wholeheartedly supported by my wife and our three daughters. My wife Jennifer grew up in a firefighting family that goes back two generations. Her father was the Chief of Westbrook Fire Department, and her three brothers were all in the service as well, so she understands the demands of the job. I’m very lucky and fortunate to have these folks in my life, and they are my support team. This includes their spouses and our 4 grandchildren. These are the ones that keep me grounded.”

According to Wescott, the biggest misconception people may have about his work involves fire inspections of commercial properties.

“Some may think that a fire inspection violation will lead to properties being closed or some type of fine,” he said. “This notion is far from the truth. Quite the contrary, the Windham Fire Rescue inspection model is to communicate, educate and help our partners in commercial business to make their properties fire safe. We want every business in the town to succeed but we also want the businesses to be fire safe. We will work with these businesses to solve their fire safety issues.”

Wescott says that through the years he’s learned that a job as a firefighter will humble you very quickly, and to succeed there must be a team effort, and not individualism.

“In the HBO series Band of Brothers, Dick Winters made the comment in his interview with the cast and said someone asked him ‘Are you a hero?’ and his answer was ‘no, but I served with a bunch of hero’s.’ The same metaphor holds true here in the Windham Fire Rescue, I work with a bunch of heroes every day.” <

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