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Battalion chief, longtime member of Concord Fire Department retires to become Canterbury town manager

During 30 years with the Concord Fire Department, Ken Folsom pulled up to the scene of more than a few fires and bad car accidents.

He also once delivered a baby in an ambulance on the side of Franklin Street.

“People tend to call us when they need help,” Folsom said. “It’s nice to get there and actually be able to help somebody, when you’re able to help somebody and make a difference in their life.”

Folsom, 56, retired this past weekend from his post as a battalion fire chief in Concord. He joined the department as a firefighter in 1984, when he was a member of the volunteer force in Bedford.

“My father was a volunteer fireman for a long time. . . . I would hang around the firehouse as a young kid,” Folsom said. “My father would bring myself and my brother, and I thought it would be a really good job.”

The job became a career. Folsom became a lieutenant in 1998, a captain in 2004 and the commander of the department’s Battalion Three in 2007. Fire Chief Dan Andrus called Folsom “absolutely one of the best command officers I have ever worked with in the fire service.”

“He’s honest, he’s direct,” Andrus said. “He focuses his team and sometimes us on our mission and on training and on getting the job done for our citizens. He’s all about fulfilling the mission.”

Andrus remembered Folsom’s leadership during a house fire on Portsmouth Street in January 2009. “It was bitterly, achingly, subzero cold,” Andrus said.

Folsom guided his team in knocking down the fire, and then Andrus said the battalion chief took care to limit damage to the home when the crew searched for hidden hot spots. Despite the freezing weather, Folsom made sure the job was done right to save a historic home for its owners.

“I was impressed by the attention to detail and the care. . . . It wasn’t just a house fire, it was someone’s home,” Andrus said.

When Folsom started, he remembered the calls were mostly house fires like that blaze on Portsmouth Street. But the department has changed over his career to include all types of emergencies, from river rescues to dealing with hazardous materials.

“We’re the ones who get called,” Folsom said.

During his tenure, Folsom has also piloted a training program for refreshing technical rescue skills, and he secured more than $50,000 in grant money to upgrade the department’s equipment for water rescues. He said he’ll miss training young firefighters, the recruits joining the force as he did at a young age.

“Don’t stop learning,” he said. “Always look to more education, more training.”

In a press release, other members of the Concord Fire Department praised their outgoing colleague. “His knowledge, his leadership skills, his ability to live the core values helped motivate us all to work to reach his level,” Battalion Chief Guy Newbury said. “It has been my privilege to work him through the years.”

His second in command, Capt. Tom Nault, called Folsom “a great mentor and friend.”

“Folsom has shared his knowledge, his ability to lead and his compassion for those he serves, those he works with and the fire service,” Nault said. “I will miss his leadership and wish him well as he pursues a new opportunity.”

Folsom has already begun that new opportunity – he is working part time as the town manager in Canterbury. The job will be quieter, he said with a laugh, and he likely won’t be delivering any babies at town hall. But he’ll work on town projects like removing the dilapidated bridge over the river between Boscawen and Canterbury.

So one call at a time, he’ll still be helping people.

“I’ve seen a lot of fires and things like that, but I think the things that are memorable to me are the really good ones, the times I’ve been able to help somebody,” Folsom said. “It’s been a great job, a great career.”

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

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