ANDOVER – Longtime Andover fire Chief Ken Dixon was named 2008 Maine Fire Chief of the Year on Wednesday night by the Maine Fire Chiefs Association at its annual meeting in Old Orchard Beach.

Dixon, 70, who has served Andover as fire chief since 1985, has been firefighter here for more than 40 years.

Dixon, who is attending the association’s three-day fall conference in Old Orchard Beach, said Thursday evening by phone that he was quite surprised by the award.

“It’s quite an honor to be recognized by your peers,” he said.

Durham fire Chief William St. Michel, who is the association’s president, said Dixon was chosen because he met all the criteria.

“It’s no small achievement to win it,” St. Michel said Thursday afternoon by phone from Old Orchard Beach.

“They have to be recognized and respected as a leader and an integral part of the community. In Ken’s case, it was based on his tenure as fire chief. He has over 40 years on Andover Fire Department.

“Under his leadership, the central station has been upgraded and they’re currently in the process of building a substation. All the apparatuses have been replaced and the rest of it modernized,” St. Michel said.

He cited Dixon’s implementation of a medical first responder service for Andover and the department’s extensive training record.

“Training in the department, by far, exceeds for the most part, current standards. And, out of the department, he’s implemented a technical rescue team, which is trained in rope rescue, confined space rescue, trench rescue, swift water rescue and ice rescue. This is a regional response team,” St. Michel said.

Dixon also meets award criteria that he be actively involved in county or mutual-aid fire organizations. He’s an active member of the Frankford Mutual Aid Training Association, the Western Maine Firemen’s Association, Oxford County Regional Communications Center, and the Northern Oxford Mutual Aid Association.

Additionally, at the time Dixon was nominated for the recognition, he sat on the board of directors for Med-Care Ambulance Service, and is a member of the Maine Fire Chief’s Association Board of Directors and is a representative for Oxford County.

Dixon is also the association’s representative to the Board of Underground Storage Tanks.

“I think what a lot of the committee was most impressed with was that in most communities fire chiefs are hired or volunteers or have been put in place, perhaps, by membership of the department or by selectmen. … But in Ken’s case, that’s an elected position. I believe it comes up for election every two years and not by the department, by the municipality,” St. Michel said.

Last year, longtime Peru fire Chief William Hussey was Maine’s fire chief of the year.

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