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Rideout says goodbye to Lancaster Fire Department

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter

Lancaster Selectman Leon Rideout recently announced his retirement from the Lancaster Fire Department after 30 years of service. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
January 11, 2018
LANCASTER — "After much thought and consideration, I will be retiring from the fire service. My time with the Lancaster Fire Department has been both rewarding and challenging at times. Those that I served with there will remain friends but for many reasons the time is right for me to retire after 30 years working a job that I truly loved. Lancaster sets the standard for call departments in the North Country and it has been an honor to be a member," Lancaster Selectman Leon Rideout commented on his recent retirement from the LFD.

Rideout first became interested in working with the fire department while he was still in high school, recalling that "My father was a firefighter for Lancaster and as my 18th birthday approached I applied, though at the time there was a six-to-eight-month waiting list to be accepted and by the time my application was being considered I had enlisted in the Marines."

After Rideout returned from duty, he was busy with work and having a young family. This was when Sam Evans began asking about his interest while at the auto shop Rideout worked at.

"I applied and was placed on as a probationary member immediately, as there was no longer a waiting list," explained Rideout. "There were several guys that joined in close proximity to each other and started the department training together. As luck, would have it the Jefferson arsons kicked off and training became actual firefighting first hand."

Rideout went on to say, "The arsons were a definite tense time for the North Country but cemented my love for fire fighting and in my opinion left the North Country with some well trained and very experienced young firefighters. Tragic times produced unexpected results of great call departments."

Rideout said that one part of the fire department that he valued has always been the friendships formed.

He said they always felt they closely resembled those formed in the Marine Corps, adding "I was deployed three times during my time with the Lancaster Fire Dept and there was always some one willing to help or check in on my family during those times."

His memories from his time with the department consist of friendships formed during challenging fires and also experiencing the lows that take place after fighting a fatal fire.

When asked if he ever felt fear during a particular fire, Rideout said, "I truly can't remember being scared but had an interesting time at the Russ fire in Groveton in 1992 while trying to get into the attic and the fire came back over three of us and was very very warm. It is very sobering when you know you are going in to look for someone. I have to say also I believe a reason I can say I was never scared was that I always had confidence in the other members of Lancaster's Fire Department always well trained and an excellent team to be a member of."

Rideout says local fire departments are in need of recruits.

"We need to ask younger people interested in the field to apply to their local departments, as it is a trend nationwide of aging departments and less volunteers," he said. "Lancaster also has an Explorer program for those in high school who can learn about the fire service and EMS. Several local students have gone through the program and are currently employed in both fields. Explorers get to train with us with limitations, but usually get a good all around experience in either fire fighting or EMS; it is a program affiliated with scouting."

Born in 1963 in Lancaster, Rideout graduated high school in 1981 and enlisted in the United States Marine Corp in 1981, and served until 1985. He re-enlisted in the reserves in 1988 and was deployed to Desert Sheild/Storm from 1990-91. Rideout served as a selectman for Lancaster from 1992-95 and served on various boards. From 2003-2006 the Marine was deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He was selectman in 2009 and served as a New Hampshire State Representative from 2012-2016.

When asked what the future holds, Rideout said, "I have undertaken the command of VFW Post 3041 in Lancaster and working to insure that the Post's mission of helping Veterans Youth and elderly through community service is accomplished and I will continue my selectman duties and hopefully spend more time with my grandsons."

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