Wendell fire chief retires after 57 years

Last modified: Monday, February 03, 2014
WENDELL — The town of Wendell’s fire chief is retiring at the end of this month after 57 years as a firefighter, 38 of them as chief.

Chief Everett Ricketts, 77, moved to Wendell from Boston in 1955 to raise pigs with his brother. They picked Wendell, about 70 miles west of Boston, because it was the closest place to the city where the land they needed was affordable and available.

He joined the fire department in 1957, when things were a lot more informal.

“It was just neighbor helping neighbor, and before I knew it, I was on the department,” he told The Recorder of Greenfield for a story published Monday.

He also worked as a surface grinder at a local metal plant and as a woodworker at the Northfield Mount Hermon School.

Some things haven’t changed during his time. The department is still all-volunteer, his job still part-time.

But the technology has advanced.

Firefighting used to be putting “the wet stuff on the red stuff,” now it involves thermal imaging and other high-tech gadgets, he said.

Still, he’s used to running the department on a small-town budget. Wendell has less than 1,000 people.

When the department replaced its tanker’s steel tank with a more durable plastic one, it was going to cost $12,000 to have the new tank lettered and lighted. Instead, Ricketts and his firefighters installed the lights and put on the decals themselves.

When a truck needed mechanical work, he always tried to have them worked on in-house.

“It makes no sense to pay someone $80 to install a $15 part,” he said.

Already an experienced traveler, he plans to travel more in retirement to see his family, which includes four children, eight grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

His advice is to live life to the fullest.

“Tomorrow is never promised to you,” he said. “Live while you’re alive, because you’ll be a long time dead.”