Chief Byron Rogers, seen here in 1993, wrote in the company’s 1999 yearbook that he was proud of accomplishments such as strengthening the city’s fire sprinkler ordinance and improving relations with other departments. Courtesy photo

WESTBROOK— Former Fire Chief Byron Rogers, who died at age 87 on Nov. 1, is being remembered as “one of the best firefighters in the area” and as a loving father.

From left: Son Jeffrey Rogers, Chief Byron Rogers and sons Jim and Chris Rogers. This photo appeared in a 1999 Engine No. 3 yearbook commemorating Rogers’ service. Courtesy photo

Rogers was the Westbrook Fire Department’s first full-time chief. A Westbrook High graduate, he started his 42-year fire career in 1957 after five years in the Navy. Promoted to deputy chief in 1974, Rogers would go on to serve as chief in 1994 until his retirement in 1999.

The department honored Rogers with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 while celebrating the city’s 125th anniversary.

His family, friends and co-workers have recalled his dedication to safety.

“He was way ahead of his time as a firefighter,” said son Jim Rogers, a former Westbrook department member now working in Mobile, Alabama, heading into his 41st year as a firefighter.  “He’s where I really learned to multi-task. He had like eight things going on in his head at once, and he was thinking what was going on in 10-40 minutes, not right now.” 

Rogers had remarkable foresight, said Mike Sanphy, a former city police officer, call firefighter and mayor.

“I remember we were fighting a fire downtown in the ’70s. He was yelling at someone to move their truck. He was the kind of guy that got right to the point, no one knew why he said that, they just moved it. Five minutes later a wall collapsed right where the truck was,” Sanphy said.

Other of Rogers’ former colleagues said he was their biggest inspiration. He pushed fire safety before specific safety officers existed.

“I always said he was the first safety officer in the area, ahead of his time. He was a great fire ground commander. He had the ability to read the fire and read smoke and make tactical decisions on whether you are putting people in or pulling them out,” said former Gorham Fire Chief Bobby Lefebvre.

Lefebvre grew up in the same neighborhood as Rogers.  

“I’ve known him since I was 10 or 11 years old.  He knew my parents. We were close friends and I considered him a second father,”  Lefebvre said. 

Call Company Chief Gary Caron recalled the care Rogers had for the fire team.

“If there ever was an issue, he’d step up and make sure it was all OK,” Caron said. “Losing him is a loss for the city. He really cared about the people.”

Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte said it was a “privilege” to know Rogers.

“While I never had the opportunity to work directly for Chief Rogers, I did have the privilege of getting to know him over the past seven years, and it was evident in our discussions that he was passionate about two things: his family and his second family, the Fire Service,” Turcotte said.

Rogers and his wife, Phyllis, had nine children.

“Dad never stopped loving the fire service,” said son Jeff Rogers, a captain in the South Portland Fire Department. “He always listened to the scanner when my brother was working in Mobile or I was working in South Portland.  We would talk about fires and incidents at work, he would stop by for coffee, and any time that I asked, he would always give me his advice.”

Jim Rogers worked with his father at the Westbrook department, but he said the memories he most cherishes are when his parents,  following his father’s retirement, would visit him and his wife down south every winter.

“Our best times we would just go and explore, eat somewhere, tour. It was a really special time, and he always looked forward to that plane in January and getting out of the snow,” Jim Rogers said. “One time I picked him and my mom up in New Orleans, we toured the French Quarter in a horse carriage, and just went and ate our way through the state.”

Daughter Karen Rogers-Campbell remembered how her parents attended every one of her sporting events through high school and college, no matter how far away.

“His greatest blessings were when we were together as a family,” daughter Jen Wescott said. “You’d see him tear up as he watched all of us being together. He’d say ‘This is what it’s all about,’ and it was the family together.”

Turcotte said Rogers’ legacy will live on through the lessons he shared that have been passed on, and the family he held close.

I tried to learn as much as I could from him every day, as a fireman and a dad. He taught me so much about life. I’ve been in this job 41 years this year, and I can’t thank him for all of my training and foresight,” Jim Rogers said.

Chief Byron Rogers at his home in 2015. Courtesy photo

Comments are not available on this story.