Fire chief's death ruled to be in 'line of duty' after more than 50 years passed
Written by NH1.com on .
LACONIA — Better late than never was the motto of the Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Chief Coordinator Jonathan Goldman when he began researching the 1954 death of Winnisquam Fire Chief Chester Brickett.
According to Goldman's findings, Brickett, along with his men, responded to a Laconia fire on Jan. 14, 1954.
On the way back from the fire, 51-year-old Brickett was "stricken behind the wheel" and died during transport to Laconia hospital. His cause of death was determined to be a heart attack.
Before his passing, Brickett had been the Winnisquam fire chief for six years as well as the first president of the LRMFA Association.
Goldman discovered the death due to a Facebook post of the "New England Fire Rescue History on this Date" page which was done on the anniversary of Brickett's passing.
Goldman, with assistance from LRMFA Lt. Kevin Nugent, built the story of Brickett's life and death through "Internet web site archives, 1950s era town reports, handwritten Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid meeting minutes, and family interviews."
After months and months of extensive research, the two had enough evidence to prove Brickett was the chief when he passed, but they still needed official documentation.
Luckily, Nugent found a worn leather bound book filled with Winnisquam Fire Department meeting minutes that contained a hand-written note at the end stating, "This page to be left blank in memory of our Chief, Chester Brickett. Passed away at the wheel of the F.M.C in the line of duty returning from (...) South Main Street, Laconia Jan 14, 1954."
With this new information, Goldman submitted everything to NH State Fire Marshall J. William Degnan, whose job is to review and rule whether a firefighter's death was a "Line of duty death."
Marshall Degnan ruled the death as in the line of duty, the highest honor a firefighter can receive, and announced that Brickett's name will be engraved at the NH State Firefighters's Memorial in September 2017.