Mexico Fire Chief Richard Jones is flanked by firefighters Gary Wentzell, left, and Ray Broomhall at a Relay For Life event in Rumford several years ago. Submitted photo

MEXICO — Fire Chief Richard “Jonesy” Jones has retired, ending a 44-year career with the department, including the past four as chief.

“It’s been quite a ride, the last 44 1/2 years,” he said Thursday. “It’s like anything else, when you’re committed like that, there were a lot of things that I missed in my life, but I don’t regret it for a second.”

Jones, 65, said he missed important birthdays and other special moments, “but when I signed on, to me, it was a commitment, which I was going to fulfill.”

His interest in firefighting began in the mid-1970s.

“I remember that there was a fire up behind the old high school,” he said. “It looked like they needed some help, so I stopped and helped them get their hoses hooked up and stuff. And that kind of led me into it.”

Motivated by a desire to help people, Jones decided to join the Mexico department, but there was a waiting list to get in. There were three companies of 15 men each and among them was Ray Broomhall who started in 1962.

Broomhall, who served during much of Jones’ career, retired in 2012 after 50 years of service but returned for a few years to serve on traffic details.

Broomhall said with Jones’ retirement, he, too, would be stepping away from the department again.

Jones has served under Chiefs Scotty Whytock, Roland Berry and Gary Wentzell.

He became chief in 2017 following Wentzell’s death.

“I thought it was an honor, stepping up into that position,” Jones said. “Had some really big shoes to fill, following Gary. It sucked moving up that way, but I was ready to take it on when he was gone.”

One of the most memorable fires he covered was early in his career. It was a motel on Main Street near the site now occupied by the Far East Restaurant.

“I can remember standing out at night in the winter on the centerline, in the middle of Route 2, with a 2½-inch nozzle, and still could not touch the building with a straight stream, the wind was blowing that hard,” he said. “We were all iced up. Almost had to take a hammer to get your buckles undone so you could get your clothes off.”

One of the activities the department used to do was firemen’s musters.

“We used to go to the clam festival and muster down there, Olde Home Days in Andover and at a few state conventions,” he said. “We also mustered the two times Mexico and Rumford hosted the state conventions in 1987 and 2001.”

In 2008, Jones was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Maine State Federation of Firefighters convention in Boothbay Harbor. Until then the award was known as Firefighter of the Year.

In the parade that year, Jones drove a vehicle with Broomhall as his passenger. Broomhall was Firefighter of the Year in 2006.

Jones is a vice president of the Maine State Federation of Firefighters and president of Northern Oxford Mutual Aid, a nonprofit established in 2004 by fire chiefs in 11 towns to discuss operations, training and equipment. The towns include Rumford, Mexico, Dixfield, Peru, Roxbury, Andover, Bethel, Newry, Gilead, Greenwood and Woodstock.

While retired from firefighting, Jones still works for Bancroft Contracting in South Paris, marking 43 years there in June.

With a little more extra time, he said he expects to get back to camping with family and friends.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: