By John Anderson
During last Wednesday’s Ecumenical Service, retired Fire Chief Roger G. Belhumeur received the John E. Riley & Ethel E. Riley Outstanding Citizenship Award. The First Congregational Church hosted the Auburn Community Thanksgiving Eve Service.
The award was created in 1976 to honor the Riley’s for their contribution to serving and making life for Auburn citizens better. John served as Town Clerk from 1922 until 1952, and Ethel served as an Assistant for many years. The award was presented by their daughter, Martha Pappas.
Roger Belhumeur joined the Auburn Fire Department in 1966 as a call firefighter. He became the town’s first full-time firefighter when he was made the Fire Inspector in 1978. As the town’s first full-time inspector, he immersed himself in the job and became a strong advocate for fire safety in both Auburn and the Commonwealth. Roger was an active member of the Fire Prevention Association of Massachusetts, at one time-serving as their President. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1982, and then Chief on January 1, 1987.
As Chief, he continued to bring the department into the 20th century by procuring new equipment, adding additional full-time staff to meet the growing needs of the department, starting the town’s first ambulance service and creating programs to increase firefighter safety and training. Chief Belhumeur was one of the founding members of the Chiefs Association now known as Massachusetts Fire District 7. The twenty-five communities that make up District 7 were organized to provide rapid deployment of mutual aid to incidents involving fires, rescues and hazardous materials.
Chief Belhumeur retired from the department on December 31, 2002. He remains a fixture in the community having served on the Charter Review Committee, as the town’s Emergency Management Director and as a Town Meeting Member for Precinct 4. Belhumeur was also active with the Boy Scouts and many other community and business activities.