Fire Chief Ashley Wax-Armstrong, standing in background, is sworn in March 28 during the Select Board meeting at the Central Station at 701 Main St. Those attending included members of the South Portland Fire Department where she previously worked. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

OXFORD — Ashley Wax-Armstrong is Oxford’s first female fire and rescue chief and her appointment brings her back to the place where her career as a first responder began.

She will oversee Oxford Fire and Rescue Department’s staff of 32 and a fleet of eight vehicles. Her starting salary is $72,000 annually, plus benefits, Town Manager Adam Garland said. There is no contract, he said, so her term is for an indefinite period of time.

When she was a student at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris, her plan was to become a nurse. She had earned her certified nursing assistant certificate through Oxford Hills Technical School’s allied health program and was working at the Maine Veterans’ Home in South Paris.

During her senior year in 2009 she decided to become a junior firefighter.

“Being in the department, it gave me such a sense of camaraderie. It’s a family,” she said. “I was still able to help people. Working EMS, it provided the medical care component that I wanted, but it had a lot more action (attached to it).”

Wax-Armstrong decided to switch from studying nursing at Southern Maine Community College in favor of fire science technology. She found one college on the East Coast that provided a firefighter program, Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts. She enrolled, attended one year and transferred to SMCC that eventually brought her to the Cumberland Fire Department. She found the job was not quite the same as in western Maine.


“It’s a different culture in the more urban/suburban communities,” she said. “There are more women in those departments. The equipment was a bit different. By it’s rural nature, there is less manpower in Oxford Hills and a stronger culture of independence, but more trauma comes with the job in the way of traffic accidents.”

Oxford Fire Chief Ashley Wax-Armstrong gets help March 28 from her 5-year-old daughter, Lilliana, in pinning her uniform during her swearing-in ceremony at the Central Fire Station on Main Street. Her daughter, Addison, 3, entertains the audience, which included a roomful of firefighters, residents, town officials and representatives from the South Portland Fire Department where she served previously. Submitted photo

After graduating, Wax-Armstrong landed a full-time job with the South Portland Fire Department. She worked her way up to EMS coordinator, supervising other staff, handling supply and order responsibilities, and overseeing administrative and compliance issues.

The population and economy were more diverse, which broadened her experiences, she said. Calls involved corporate hazard situations. Firefighters were regularly called to sites with large numbers of employees, from The Maine Mall to bio and chemical companies and other businesses such as the oil tank farms on Casco Bay.

Wax-Armstrong was satisfied with her career track in South Portland when a co-worker mentioned hearing that her hometown was advertising for a fire chief last fall.

“I have two young daughters, 3 and 5,” she said. “I began reflecting on what would be best for my family. Working business hours would allow me more time with my girls.

“And it was really cool to think about coming full circle — back to the department where I started my career,” she said. “I could reconnect with my own mentors, while sharing the experiences I’ve gained with them.”


Oxford formed a search committee comprised of Garland, two selectmen, and two fire chiefs from other Maine communities.

“Ashley came in to interview and after the first round the decision to bring her back was unanimous,” Garland said. “Her EMS experience (stood out), and she brings a fresh approach to Oxford.”

Garland said of all the candidates on the committee felt that Wax-Armstrong was best equipped to lead a department that needs to grow with the community and demands it puts on increased public services.

Since the day she was officially hired last month, Wax-Armstrong has had a full plate. Some of her priorities include a thorough review and revision of the department’s operating procedures and an evaluation of the department’s fleet of vehicles for a comprehensive long-term capital equipment plan.

“We expect our firefighter and EMS crews to increase going forward,” Garland said. “By hiring Ashley, we are putting the pieces in place to achieve and manage our future growth.”

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