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A FIRE MAN with a HEART

After 32 years with the Sandy Fire Department, Capt. Art Blaisdell has retired


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: STEVE WOLF - In this action photo, on-duty Capt. Art Blaisdell is preparing to pump water from Sandy Fire District Engine No. 74 onto a growing fire incident.Sandy Fire District Capt. Art Blaisdell is proudly wearing “Ret.” behind his name.

Blaisdell has hung up his turnouts and helmet in an engine bay locker for the last time. He is officially retired after 32 years with Sandy Fire.

Blaisdell admits he has the personality and self-motivation that drives him to offer help to other people.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: STEVE WOLF - In this scene at an active home fire, Capt. Art Blaisdell monitors the air packs that firefighters under his supervision are wearing.“When I got out (of the military),” he said, “I wanted something that gave that same feeling of helping the community, helping people, donating my time to help make things better. That’s what has kept me going (in the fire service) for the past 32 years.”

That personality, common to all firefighters, began developing during his childhood while watching his father, a World War II veteran.

“He would always go out of his way to help people and make situations better,” Blaisdell said of his father. “And I saw that as a great way to live. I could see that it made him feel better.”

As a volunteer and career firefighter, Blaisdell certainly has had many opportunities to achieve the goal of helping other people.

Blaisdell began his career as a volunteer firefighter, but not in the way he had planned. He wanted to go directly from the high school graduation stage to the fire department, but was told his eyesight wasn’t good enough.

Instead, he got a job as an auto mechanic until he enlisted in the Army and spent four years as a sergeant in the motor pool.

On leaving the Army, Blaisdell was a natural for the mechanic’s position at Carlson Chevrolet in Sandy. He worked there for four years (1978-1982), and began volunteering for the fire department in 1981.

When another firefighter’s retirement opened a full-time job as a mechanic in 1982 at the Sandy Fire Department, volunteer Blaisdell jumped at the chance to become a career firefighter.

“And I’ve been a mechanic and firefighter ever since,” he said.

Blaisdell is not trained as a chaplain, although his training does include death and dying and a little on how to deal with family in tense situations when one of the family is seriously hurt or dying.

As a first responder, he has to take his emergency medical technician’s “hat” off and put his chaplain’s “hat” on.

“I’ve seen a lot of death,” he said. “Every one is very sad.

“I just feel I have done everything I could to prevent that death,” he added, his voice wavering a bit with memories of recent deaths. “Afterward, I have to help console the family as much as I can. After I declare the person deceased, I have to take care of the family’s emotional needs (until the chaplain arrives).”

During the public gathering Aug. 30 to recognize Blaisdell’s retirement, there were a few stories circulating.

The one he had hoped would not be remembered (again) is the time years ago when Blaisdell was a young lieutenant taking the role of command at his first fire — an old home on Firwood Road.

While Lt. Blaisdell was standing near the home with his back to the single-wall construction building, one of the firefighters opened a hole in the exterior wall.

“The fire was circling from the basement up the walls to the attic and back down,” he said. “When he pulled that siding off, it created a backdraft. It allowed oxygen to feed the fire, and it literally blew every window out of that house. That totally changed our plan of attack.”

The epilogue for that story is that the new plan of attack saved the home. It was repaired, Blaisdell said, and it is still standing today.

But more in the forefront of his mind are the situations when he was challenged to render aid.

He remembers the time he was the first responder at the scene of a daughter discovering her father at his mountain cabin three days after he had died.

“I had to pronounce him dead, and then talk to the daughter and tell her it was not her fault. I also helped her understand all that was about to happen. I was trying to help her get though her feelings of guilt.”

About three weeks later, the fire chief got a letter thanking the fire department, but especially thanking Blaisdell for the way he, as the first EMT at the home, had cared for the family.

“To get that gratitude from the family is just overwhelming,” he said. “And that (letter of gratitude) is a bright spot.”