By John Anderson
There are few firefighters who have impacted a region the way Auburn’s Roger Belhumeur did. With the exception of Worcester, the 32 communities in Massachusetts Fire District 7 have limited resources, and many lack full-time firefighters. Mutual Aid is a necessity for many emergencies to get adequate personnel and equipment to the scene, and Belhumeur was instrumental in building the relationships that made mutual aid possible and consistent.
That was very obvious last week as multiple agencies were in town to cover Auburn’s stations so firefighters could attend services for both Chief Belhumeur and Police Officer Tarentino. Fire departments from Sturbridge, Uxbridge, Dudley, Upton, Leicester, Southbridge, Sutton and Spencer along with Worcester EMS and Webster EMS kept the town safe. Auburn Fire Rescue posted, “Thank you to all of our mutual aid partners for helping us out today. Chief Belhumeur would be proud of all of you.”
Chief Belhumeur was both proud and protective of those serving under him. He valued their work and dedication, and he did his best to keep them safe. During his nearly 15 years as Chief, Belhumeur fought for more full-time firefighters, added an ambulance to expand the department’s functions and revenue, and updated some very old equipment.
When Auburn Fire Chief Stephen Coleman and Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey spoke to the Board of Selectmen on May 23rd, they talked about another highlight of Belhumeur’s career, fire prevention. Belhumeur was hired as Auburn Fire’s first full-time employee with the title “Fire Inspector” in 1978, and he dove into this role with a passion. Many fire professionals still say he was the “go to guy” with questions about or issues with fire codes. Many of his ideas became law and have helped protect millions of Massachusetts’ citizens.
Sadly, Chief Belhumeur lost his 16-year battle with cancer in the early morning hours of May 22nd. One week ago, hundreds came out to honor Auburn’s first full-time Fire Chief, community volunteer, son, husband, father and grandfather. The ceremony and procession were heartwarming and could not have been more perfect for such an outstanding human being. He is already deeply missed.
Today’s slide show is of the funeral with attention to the honor given by members of the fire service with the support of many police officers and citizens. Electronic downloads, for personal use, are free, and prints are at Auburn Mass Daily’s vendor cost.
During my last conversation with Chief Belhumeur on April 10th, we talked about the Auburn Fire Department and some of his accomplishments. He did not know at that time that his experimental chemotherapy was not working. The Chief told me, “The fire service was a big part of my life, and it will be a big part of my death.” He was certainly right.
We miss you Roger. Thank you for all you accomplished.