Orford Firefighter Dies in the Line of Duty

  • Charlie Waterbury with with his dog Crumb in March 2013. courtsey photo

  • Charlie Waterbury dances with his daughter Whitney, at a family event Oct. 1, 2011. courtesy photo courtesy photograph

  • Lt. Kevin LaHaye, left, of the Lyme Fire Department and Lt. John Dunham, of the Orford Fire Department place a pleated flag in mourning colors on the fire engine that Orford Fire Chief Terry Straight said was Orford fireman Charles A. Waterbury's favorite during a news conference at the Orford Fire Department in Orford, N.H., on July 25, 2016. Waterbury died Sunday while fighting a brush fire in Lyme, N.H. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Orford Fire Chief Terry Straight remembers Orford firefighter Charles Waterbury during a news conference at the Orford Fire Department in Orford, N.H., on July 25, 2016. Straight says Waterbury was a dedicated and respected member of the team. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/26/2016 12:33:11 AM
Modified: 7/26/2016 10:07:35 AM

Orford — A 10-year veteran of the Orford Fire Department died on Sunday afternoon after suffering a medical emergency while fighting a brush fire in Lyme.

Fire officials at a news conference on Monday said 56-year-old Charles A. Waterbury, of Orford, was manning a pumper truck when it became “obvious” that he was having a medical issue.

More than a half-dozen firefighters, including a medical doctor and two paramedics who were on scene, rushed to Waterbury’s side and rendered aid within seconds, said Hanover Fire Chief Martin McMillan, who also was on scene on Sunday afternoon.

Ambulance personnel rushed Waterbury to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center shortly after 3 p.m., where he later was pronounced dead. An autopsy is scheduled for today; his exact cause of death wasn’t released on Monday.

“Charlie was a great go-to guy; if you needed something, you could count on Charlie Waterbury,” Orford Fire Chief Terry Straight said through tears from a podium outside of the Orford fire station on Monday. “He was the type of guy that when he would walk into the station, everybody would respect him and listen to him. He was a good leader and a good trainer ... an all-around good guy.”

Waterbury’s service in the town of Orford didn’t stop at firefighting. He served as the road agent for 17 years until his retirement from the post about two years ago, Selectboard Chairwoman Anne Duncan Cooley said. He also sat on the budget advisory committee and served as tree warden, she said.

“He was just one of those guys that ... stepped up to make Orford a better place,” Duncan Cooley said from the podium. “We are really, really going to miss Charlie.”

In addition to his work in the town of Orford, Waterbury also served in the Army and was a member of the National Guard.

Waterbury was one of several dozen firefighters dispatched to 15 Claflin Lane in Lyme on Sunday afternoon for a reported brush fire.

The Lyme Fire Department received the tone around 1:45 p.m., and upgraded the fire to a second alarm shortly after, drawing a response from Orford, Hanover, Canaan, Enfield, Fairlee, Norwich, Thetford, Bradford, Lebanon and the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands, said Chris Wyman, an investigator with the state Fire Marshal’s Office.

Around 2:10 p.m., Orford responded to the scene with eight firefighters. About 40 minutes later, the Hanover chief transmitted over the radio that Waterbury, who was manning a pumper truck at the time, was suffering a medical emergency.

Lyme Deputy Fire Chief Michael Hinsley said in a telephone interview on Monday that he had been throwing “jabs” with Waterbury in the hours preceding his death. He spoke of Waterbury as someone who was “intensely committed” to his community and regarded him as a person who would always step up to the plate when needed — never soliciting anything in return.

“He didn’t speak all the time, but when he said something, it was pretty profound,” Hinsley said.

Forest Ranger Steve Sherman said a lightning strike caused the blaze that burned 1.6 acres of land in rural Lyme. He said lightning likely struck several trees on Friday or Saturday; the fire didn’t break out until Sunday afternoon.

Sherman said he cleared the scene around 7:30 p.m. Sunday; the fire was still burning on Monday morning. A crew returned to put out the remaining hot spots.

McMillan, the Hanover chief, spoke of the brotherhood between firefighters at the news conference.

The Upper Valley is a tight-knit community, he said, so when an area department loses a firefighter, all departments feel the impact.

“We are one big family, so when we lose somebody, we lose a family member,” McMillan said. “And it hurts.”

He said Waterbury would want to be remembered as “a firefighter. And a damn good one,” he said.

Waterbury is survived by a daughter, a grandchild, his mother and father, and a brother and sister. Funeral arrangements haven’t yet been set. Gov. Maggie Hassan has ordered flags to fly at half-staff on the day of Waterbury’s service.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

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