By Kyle Stucker
Hampton-NorthHampton.Patch.com, Tuesday, April 3, 2012
[The following article is courtesy of Hampton-NorthHamptonPatch.com.]
For Jamie Ayotte, his dream to become a firefighter started on Super Bowl Sunday in 1981.
Ayotte, who was 8 years old at the time, was enjoying the day with his family when a dryer fire extended throughout the entire bottom floor of their Dracut, Mass., home.
Everyone safely made it out of the traumatic fire, which occurred five days before Ayotte's birthday and devoured all the Christmas presents he received just a month and a half prior. The experience was jarring, although it also had an everlasting positive impact on the youngster.
"I was so scared watching the fire and what was going on," said Ayotte, now 40. "I was watching [the responding firefighters] going off the truck and calmly doing their business and I just thought, 'That’s something I need to do.' I made it one of my life goals to do.
"This is not just a job — it's a calling. That's not said lightly. You hear about that in religious circles, and this is very much similar for firefighters."
Ayotte stuck with his dream after attending college, and that dream has now brought him to Hampton as the Hampton Fire Department's new deputy fire chief.
Ayotte started in the field in 1994 as an EMT in Lawrence, Mass., and looks to bring to Hampton the skills he's honed while working in fire departments in Amesbury, Mass., and South Hampton.
Among those skills is his approach to the public, particularly those receiving aid from the fire department. Ayotte said his childhood fire experience — which included living in a trailer in his driveway for three months while his parents repaired the house — taught him "sympathy" and that there's much more to the career than extinguishing flames.
"Customer service is my No. 1 reason to be here," said Ayotte, who is looking to move to Hampton soon with his wife and three sons. "It's important to me to do this job, and to do it well. The way the Dracut Fire Department treated me and my family — I thought they went way beyond as far customer service goes. If someone has a fire I try to go that extra mile for them because I know what they're going through."
Ayotte has officially been working as the deputy chief for a little over three weeks, and he said he's enjoyed it because everyone has been "very receptive." He said he wants to bring his approach to the public and his strong emphasis on continued professional education to the department to enhance a crew that he feels is already doing a great job serving the community.
Being that he started the week of Town Meeting, Ayotte said he's had a unique look at how the decision to fully support a massive fire station improvements bond and two union contracts has really helped the department's morale "blossom."
Ayotte said he hopes to continue that positive energy, and said he looks forward to helping with the massive undertaking that building a new beach station and rehabilitating the Winnacunnet Road station will require.
"This is a wonderful wave to be on," said Ayotte.