WINSLOW — Chief Ronnie Rodriguez and other members of the Winslow Fire Department stood Thursday afternoon in front of the firetruck their friend and colleague Capt. Scott Higgins commanded.

Winslow fire Capt. Scott Higgins Contributed photo

They laughed as they recalled how Higgins’ nickname, “Scoot,” came to be.

“One time, somebody wrote his name with two O’s instead of two T’s, and it just stuck from there,” Rodriguez said.

As Rodriguez looked up at the freshly affixed memorial decal on the front left window of the firetruck, he noted how much the truck and the department meant to Higgins, who died unexpectedly Monday.

“This was his baby,” Rodriguez said.

Higgins, 49, served the Winslow Fire Department for nearly 18 years, beginning his career as a member of the call force and, throughout the years, “made it through the ranks,” according to Rodriguez.

Higgins was a shift B captain when he died.

Higgins had no known medical issues prior to his sudden death.

“Scott passed away from natural causes,” Rodriguez said. “The state medical examiner is doing their duty and their findings will be released. Because it was (an) unattended (death), their protocol is being followed.”

Rodriguez held back tears as he stood in front of an impromptu memorial for Higgins that was erected in the conference room of the fire station.

“It’s hard to sum up somebody’s life in a few moments, but if there’s anything that would encapsulate Scott, it was his big heart,” Rodriguez said. “He was always willing to help, and he would never turn anyone away. He was quick to forgive, absolutely a confidant, loyal, the most-loyal individual anybody could ask for.

He had an infectious laugh that when you heard it it just brightened up the room. He strived to be the best. Not just the best firefighter he could be or the best officer he could be, but he strived to be the best person he could be. Scott was a true gentleman.”

According to Rodriguez, Higgins displayed fervent dedication to being a top-notch firefighter.

“He was a consummate fireman,” Rodriguez said. “He strived to find ways to improve his skills. The fire service is a dynamic one, and there’s always new improvements to be made and Scott was on it. He was always on the forefront of new ideas, and he was always willing to try new ideas when they were brought to him.”

Winslow firefighter Scott Higgins says goodbye to fellow firefighters Kevin Fredette, left, and Karl Roy at the fire station in 2005 before the two left for Georgia for three days of training. Fredette and Roy then went to Louisiana to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina. Morning Sentinel file photo

Higgins was the department’s leader for training and spent 10 years teaching at the Central Maine Fire Attack School, where he mentored more than 700 students.

“That is one of the biggest impacts that’s going to be felt not just in Winslow, central Maine but statewide,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said Higgins’ dedication also reached into the realm of mental health advocacy.

“Scott was a pioneer and a leader in the healing of firefighter’s PTSD problems,” Rodriguez said. “He believed that awareness needed to be brought to the profession, and there’s been some significant strides in that arena in the removing of stigmas. And we now talk more and Scott is a big part of that.”

When Higgins was not serving his community at the Fire Department, he spent time at the Christmas tree farm he ran or with his wife, Dawn, and their granddaughter.

“Scott was a great family man,” Rodriguez said. “He loved Dawn and his granddaughter with the utmost love that anyone could have.”

A memorial service will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday at Centerpoint Community Church at 155 West River Road in Waterville. A muster is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. in the church parking lot.

Higgins’ family is requesting privacy and that people refrain from home visits or telephone calls at this time, according to a Facebook post made Tuesday by the Fire Department.

In closing his remarks Thursday, Rodriguez spoke to certain qualities he will always associate with Higgins.

“A salutation that Scott would always say when he was leaving your presence was, ‘See you later, my friend,'” Rodriguez said. “The other was in written correspondence. He would always end with the salutation, ‘Be safe — Scott.’

“He had his infectious smile and he loved to give hugs, and one of the greatest honors I have is that he called me ‘friend.'”

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