Fire Wardens Honor Bassetts for Generations of Service

SANDOWN – The New Hampshire Federation of Forest Fire Wardens Associations broke tradition this year to recognize a family without peer in the state’s fire service by awarding the Al Britton Award for Outstanding Service to Forest Fire Protection to the entire Bassett family of Sandown.

The award has always been given to a single individual, but that’s not how it works in the Bassett family, as their individual achievements and service are part and parcel with a family ethos of giving back to their community. And when the Bassetts’ long list of service is noted, it’s no surprise that the federation considered it appropriate.
The New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands’ Captain John Dodge spearheaded the award when he noticed how often the Bassett name came up in the state’s records. With the family’s help, he compiled four generations of Bassett service. Dodge is the secretary for the federation.
While the general civic efforts that the members of the Bassett family have undertaken is an even longer list, service in the realm of forest fire prevention began nine decades ago with Sandown’s Raymond K. Bassett, who in 1923 was appointed by the first State Forester, Edgar C. Hirst, as a deputy forest fire warden. He eventually became a full warden for Sandown.
Since that time there has been a Bassett appointed as a warden by every succeeding state forester.
The entire history was read when the federation awarded the honor to a large contingent of the family on Oct. 1 at the federation’s meeting at the Hooksett Safety Complex. The crew gathered around Carroll Bassett, the oldest son in attendance, and heard Dodge outline the family’s long history of service.
Raymond K.’s sons took up the call to service in spades. Carroll was appointed warden for Northwood, Richard was appointed warden for Alton, and both Raymond S. and Irving were appointed in Sandown.
And then his grandsons continued the Bassett tradition of fire service, Russell as the warden for the town of Barrington.
Four generations of Bassetts have been involved in the fire service, many of them serving as chiefs and in other leadership roles.
Raymond K.’s sons Raymond S., Kenneth, Carroll, Donald, Irving and Richard; grandsons James, Fred and Russell; and great-grandson Nikolas have served as appointed deputy forest fire wardens in the communities of Sandown, Northwood, Barrington, Alton and Durham,
Irving, Russell and Nikolas have served as special deputy forest fire wardens.
And Irving and Raymond K.’s grandsons Russell and Fred and great-grandson Nikolas have represented the state in fighting forest fires out west.
Both Irving and Carroll had been elected by the Rockingham County Forest Fire Wardens Association to serve as delegates to the state federation.
Even Eleanor Bassett, daughter of Raymond K., and Arlene Bassett, wife of Carroll, have served. Since its inception, the two have prepared and served meals every year for the annual meeting of the Rockingham County Forest Fire Wardens Association.
Arlene, Kathy Bassett (wife of Irving), Eleanor (wife of Raymond S.) and Kathleen Winter, Carroll’s daughter, were recognized in the award for continuing the family tradition of selfless service to the Rockingham County Forest Fire Wardens Association.
Kathleen Winter, Irving’s son Mike Bassett and Richard’s grandson Nathan Bassett were recognized for serving as firefighters.
“This incredible, outstanding level of dedication, determination, duty, sacrifice and selfless service to community, state and nation cannot be duplicated by any other family found in the records of the State Forest Protection Bureau,” reads the award.
Looking back over the many roles family members have held, it’s important to note that only two of those mentioned were ever full-time paid members of a department. The rest were and are volunteers. Even the two who are currently paid are volunteers in their free time.
Sandown Bassetts Eleanor, Arlene and Carroll were pleased with the award, but humble as always when recognized for their family’s civic efforts.
“You don’t think about stuff like that. You just do what you’re supposed to do,” said Carroll. “Other people serve in other ways. We do what we can do and others do what they can do.”
Eleanor has long spoken about the fact that it was the example her father and mother set as active participants in community life as the reason to keep that tradition going.
“None of us do it for the recognition,” said Carroll. “It was kind of humbling to listen to the whole thing.”
The town of Sandown is no stranger to the benefits of the Bassett family in the local fire service either, and not least by the efforts of Irving Bassett, who died last October.
The man’s impact can still be felt in the Sandown fire house, a building he and Carroll helped to build (the town’s first fire station was spearheaded by Raymond K.) and one in which current members say his impact will last for generations to come.

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