LEWISTON — A few years after college, Mike Lecompte left Maine to drop out of planes and rescue people sick at sea in California. Being away for five years made him appreciate Maine more.

Now, he’s ready for five months away from home.

After working 26 years for the Auburn Fire Department, Lecompte planned to begin a long trek up the Appalachian Trail on Monday. He said he has a great career, no injuries and a lot to be thankful for, but wants to use the time to clear his head.

“Sometimes you kind of put a shield up a little bit; some of the calls can be emotional and difficult to deal with,” he said. “You get a little bit callous at some of the emotions. I see the hike hopefully as basically breaking some of that down, getting back in touch with what’s really important in life.”

Lecompte, 52, grew up in Lewiston and graduated from Lewiston High School in 1979. After attending forestry school and working in the woods, he joined a friend traveling out West.

“I was driving by an Air Force base, stopped in, ended up joining the Air Force,” Lecompte said.

He entered the USAF pararescue program, training to drop down and respond to a pilot in need of help and to ships more than 500 miles off shore with sick or injured crew.

“It was a fun job; we got to do all sorts of cool stuff,” he said.

But by the spring of 1988, he was back in town applying to local fire departments.

“Maine to me has everything,” Lecompte said. “It’s got the mountains, the ocean. The people here are great, a little more down to Earth. When you leave Maine and go someplace else, it makes you appreciate how good Maine is.”

His Auburn firefighting career began at Central Station with a two-story apartment fire on Whitney Street and ended with a fire in a vacant second floor on Gamage Avenue as a lieutenant with Engine 5.

In between were “lots of car wrecks, lots of calls to nursing homes” and one breech baby. The laboring mother lived on Vine Street and wasn’t going to make it to the hospital on time.

“I told the woman to push as hard as she could,” Lecompte said. “We ended up having to breathe a little bit because the baby was a little blue.”

In the end, baby and Mom were fine.

“Those are calls that are great to be involved with because they’re happy calls,” he said.

Lecompte ended his last shift on Valentine’s Day, driven home with his family in a firetruck after a ceremony at Central Station.

About three years ago, he started thinking an AT hike would be perfect way to cap off his career.

“I saw the Appalachian Trail as a great way to transition into another phase of my life,” Lecompte said. “It gives me an opportunity to reflect where I’ve been and also where I’m going to go.”

Firefighting and running have kept him in shape. Lecompte started the L-A Bridge Run 14 years ago. He’s also a race director for the Greater L-A Triple Crown 5K series.

He flew to Georgia on Saturday and planned to take his first steps, starting in Springer Mountain, on Monday.

Lecompte anticipates walking all the way back to Maine by late August or early September. He’s taking a fire department nickname as his trail name: Scuffy.

“I had these huge slippers that I’d wear at night and I’d kind of scuff and they could hear me coming,” he said.

He plans to regularly update a Facebook page, Scuffy’s AT Hike, for family and friends to follow along.

Know someone that everyone knows? Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or [email protected]

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