Durham’s fire chief is leaving his post after 44 years with the department.

William “Bill” St. Michel will retire at the end of February after 25 years as chief. He said what he will miss the most is the people he works with.

St. Michel joined the department in 1973 at 17, at the behest of his friends who staffed the fire department.

Durham has about 45 volunteers on the department, said St. Michel, and the town this year implemented parttime and per diem staffing, which the chief said is going well in its pilot year.

The per diem emergency medical staff provides coverage for when volunteer personnel are unable to respond to emergency calls.

In 2016, there were 301 calls for emergency assistance for 20 staff members.

“I won’t be here to support its continuation, but I think it’s a good and affordable fix for the town,” he said.

St. Michel said he’s not going to immediately become a snowbird upon retiring, “although there has been a lot of discussion about it,” he said laughing. St. Michel owns a plumbing business he took a break from when acting as the full-time fire chief, and he said he will focus on that business now. “I’m not at an age where I should be going into burning buildings,” he said, adding he may continue to volunteer with the department as a driver.

Town Administrator Ruth Glaeser said the fire chief job has been posted for about a week and said it will likely be a long process in hiring a replacement. The new chief should be familiar with the operations of a volunteer/ per diem department and will have an understanding of the legal and public policy environment such a service operates in, as well as the best management practices of that field, the job description reads.

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