Mike Thurlow, the fire chief in Scarborough for the past 14 years, has won the Chief of the Year award from the Maine Fire Chiefs’ Association.

Thurlow received the award during a special ceremony on Oct. 7, and on hand to help celebrate were Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall and town councilors Shawn Babine and Bill Donovan.

In his letter of recommendation to the Fire Chiefs’ Association, Hall called Thurlow “a high profile, key member of my senior staff” and said that it’s “comforting to know that he is in command of critical emergency situations.”

Hall also noted that as part of the nomination process, Thurlow’s staff submitted testimony “that speaks to his character, leadership (and) dedication.”

And Hall closed his letter by stating that “Mike’s commitment and competency is unrivaled and I cannot think of a more worthy recipient” for the Chief of the Year award.

In order to qualify for the Chief of the Year award, a nominee must be “recognized as a leader in the fire service by their peers,” according to the Fire Chiefs’ Association website.


In addition, nominees must also be actively involved in mutual aid fire organizations; local fire prevention education; improving

training and safety within their own department; and regional, state or national fire service organizations.

Thurlow, who is a Scarborough native and a third-generation Scarborough firefighter, has been married for 28 years and has one son, who is also involved in the fire department, as well as being a full-time patrol officer for the town’s police department.

Thurlow took over as fire chief in Scarborough two weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and in February will have completed 40 years of service to the Scarborough Fire Department.

He joined the Pine Point call company on his 16th birthday in 1976, which was the earliest age at which he could start volunteering. And, Thurlow has spent all of his nearly 40 years as a firefighter with his hometown.

This week Thurlow spoke with the Current about his years of service and what winning the Chief of the Year award means to him.


Q: When did you know you wanted to be a career firefighter?

A: My grandfather, Donald Thurlow, was very active for years and back in the day my dad and uncles, who grew up at Pine Point, all volunteered with the call company, as did pretty much all the kids in the neighborhood. Everyone just helped out their neighbors in those days.

My grandmother was also a charter member of the Pine Point Ladies Auxiliary and my wife currently serves as treasurer. Former Chief Rob Carson is my second cousin and he certainly played a major role in recruiting me at a young age, along with dozens of others around town during his career.

Q: What do you most enjoy about being fire chief?

A: I work with a great group of individuals and I enjoy helping people. Also, several of my close friends that are all about my age and who joined at nearly the same time are still around. We all grew up together, went to high school together, and now are fortunate to be able to work here together serving the town we grew up in. This group includes deputy chiefs Glen Deering and Tony Attardo along with Police Chief Robbie Moulton and several others.

Q: What makes the Scarborough Fire Department special?


A: Our department has always been very well supported by the community. We have excellent facilities, modern apparatus and the tools and equipment necessary to do our job. I’m fortunate in that my predecessors were all very progressive and built a solid foundation to build on.

We have a talented and professional work force consisting of a combination of full-time, per diem, and call members that deliver exceptional customer service to the citizens and visitors to Scarborough. The work they do is really what makes the department special.

Q: What does winning the Chief of the Year award mean to you?

A: I have never been one to seek the spotlight and as the leader of a great organization I’m always looking to praise and motivate others so this has been a humbling couple of weeks.

That said, this is a very prestigious award and I am honored for the recognition. I’ve known, admired and been mentored by many of the past recipients so this really is a tremendous honor.

I guess what makes me most proud is that the nomination was a joint effort of Town Manager Tom Hall, a number of my staff, and some of the fire chiefs that I work with locally. In addition, the award is voted on and presented by my peers.


The thing I want everyone to know is that the fire service is a team sport. There is no one person that can fight a fire or make a rescue without the support and assistance of the whole team. I’m blessed to have a great team and to work with great people who share in this recognition.

Q: How has the fire service changed since you first started?

A: You don’t have space for that answer, but for a start when I joined self-contained breathing apparatus were relatively new. Also, no one was issued personal protective clothing that fit – there were six or eight sets hanging from the top of the fire truck and the first one to get to them wore them.

In those days we had to count the number of times the fire whistle blew and consult a little red book to decipher where the incident was and where to go. We ran to the station from the beach or work, jumped on the back tailboard in our shorts or bathing suits and rode to the fire while hanging on for dear life.

Today there are no more tailboards. All seating is enclosed, everyone has custom-fit turnout gear and things are much safer for the firefighters. The fire horns have been silent for years and although many things have changed dramatically in terms of safety, training, technology and tactics, the basic job remains the same – respond to your neighbor’s house in their time of need, be nice and help them however you can.

Scarborough Fire Chief Mike Thurlow has won this year’s Chief of the Year award from the Maine Fire Chiefs’ Association.Courtesy photo

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