HOOKSETT — For the first time, the New Hampshire Federation of Forest Fire Warden Associations presented the Award for Outstanding Service to Forest Fire Protection to four generations of forest firefighters.
Three of the four firefighting generations of the Bassett clan were on hand Tuesday at the Safety Complex in Hooksett to receive the award along with close to 30 family members, friends and colleagues from across the state.
“I’ve known the Bassett family for 30 years, and only in the last 10 did I start to piece together all these connections. It is absolutely amazing to go from the father starting in 1923 to today. All serve not just local communities but the state and the nation. They continue to do this today. Tradition of service seems to be a part of them. They look for problems to solve, not people to solve problems,” New Hampshire Division of Forest and Land Service Captain John Dodge said.
Dodge said that this is the first time in the history of the award that it has been awarded to a group of people instead of an individual.
“They deserve it,” he said.
The family tradition of becoming firefighters started with Raymond K. Bassett of Sandown when he was appointed a Deputy Forest Fire Warden in 1923. Raymond and his wife had 16 children, many of which also became firefighters, along with their children and their children.
“I have been in the service since I was a kid. My father would bring the fire truck home and put it in the yard. I was the only kid with his own fire truck. It’s amazing to be part of such a family, amazing to see the whole family (do) this and will continue to do so. (Raymond) set quite a family tradition,” Richard Bassett Jr. said.
Raymond’s youngest living son, Carroll, summed up his families almost gravitational attraction to serving.
“We are part of the community, and this is what you do for neighbors,” Carroll said.
For Carroll’s wife Arlene, what would be extraordinary for anyone else has become common.
“You get so used to it you don’t even think about it anymore. I am very proud of my husband and children (who also work as firefighters.)” Richard James Bassett III left the family business, but not too far, becoming a police officer for the Laconia Police Department.
“We’re all career-oriented and hard workers. There were only two things I could think of being, a firefighter or police officer,” he said.
Instead of giving him a hard time, Bassett III said his family was supportive and encouraging.
“We are all first responders protecting life and property,” he said.