Former South Portland firefighter and new Gorham school bus driver Phil Rumery, right, and his son, Shawn, who plans to go into the fire service like his dad. Contributed / Phil Rumery

After a 25-year career with the South Portland Fire Department, Phil Rumery has traded in a ladder truck for a Gorham school bus.

“I drove the ladder truck, which is at least 40 feet long, about the same size as a bus,” he told The Forecaster on Wednesday. “I did my 25 years in the fire service, was looking for something else, and applied to the bus service.”

As a part-time job last year, Rumery, a Gorham resident, bused school sports teams to their away games.


He enjoyed getting to know the players, he said, many of whom are friends with his two sons, high schooler Shawn and middle schooler Chris.

“They play sports as well, so there were some occasions where I was able to take my own kids to a sports game and sit and enjoy watching them,” he said.

He enjoyed the bus gig so much he decided to become a driver full time upon his retirement from the fire department Jan. 1.


Getting to know those around him also was Rumery’s favorite part of firefighting. His friendships with his fellow first responders run deep.

“The friendships that you make there are just everlasting; you get to know their families and they get to know yours. We go on vacations with these people,” he said.

Kevin Cassidy, a fellow firefighter and paramedic who worked with Rumery over the past 17 years, said the two became close friends.

“Phil Rumery is one of the kindest, most delightful human beings I’ve met in my entire life,” Cassidy told The Forecaster. “It was a lot of fun – and I mean a lot of fun – to work with Phil.”

Rumery was willing to aid the department in any way he could, Cassidy said, whether he was on duty or off.

Ben Guild, another firefighter and paramedic who worked closely with Rumery, said “his fingerprints are all over the department.”


Rumery put his carpentry skills to use by building containers for the hazmat unit’s equipment and crafting a frame for an old fire department sign from the ’60s to hang up, among other things, Guild said.

“He helped improve not only the morale but the department as a whole by making it more homey,” he said. “He was the kind of guy who didn’t think about himself, he thought about the department.”

One of Rumery’s most memorable calls, in June 2019, was rescuing a pet – and it wasn’t the classic SOS about a cat stuck in a tree.

“We had a call for a big Saint Bernard that had jumped out a window and was stranded on the roof of an apartment building,” Rumery said. “How do you get this 180-pound dog off a roof? Well, call the fire department.”

Phil Rumery’s most memorable rescue with the South Portland Fire Department was retrieving a Saint Bernard from the roof of an apartment building. Contributed / Phil Rumery

Rumery and his crew, fortunately, were in a bucket truck at the time, he said, so they loaded the dog, Bear, into the bucket and brought him down to the ground.

“That was a good moment for us, and he was just a big lovable dog,” Rumery said. “Across the street at Dunkin Donuts, there had been at least 30 people standing there with their phones filming us taking this dog off the roof.”


Rumery’s in-laws inspired him to pursue firefighting: the uncle and grandfather of his wife, Lori, had experience in the field, he said.

“I really didn’t have an interest in the fire service until I got together with Lori’s family,” he explained. “Once I came into the family, they kind of steered me in that direction,”

When he joined the South Portland Fire Department full-time in 1998, the then-35-year-old was among the oldest newcomers. He spent 15 years in an ambulance as a paramedic before moving on to firefighting. Over the course of his career, his seniority propelled him into the position of a leader and a mentor to his younger colleagues, a role he went above and beyond in, according to Fire Chief Philip Selberg.

“There is a tradition in the fire service where senior firefighters are placed in a special role of leadership and some rise to that occasion more so than others,” Selberg wrote in an email to The Forecaster. “Phil is exactly the type of senior firefighter who has attained that position of seniority and acts as the type of mentor and role model that we should all strive for.”

Rumery said he will miss working with his friends at the department but is ready for a new chapter.

“I loved it,” he said. “I loved it all, but it was time to go.”

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