Former fire chief remembered for dedication, professionalism

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Former Westbrook Fire Chief James Rulman, who received the department's lifetime achievement award at a Jan. 21 banquet, died this month in Scarborough.

WESTBROOK — The city’s longest serving fire chief died earlier this month after a lengthy illness.

Chief James Rulman, who held the position from 1973 to 1994, died June 5 at Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough. He was 85.

“He was a great man,” Mayor Mike Sanphy said. “I have a lot of respect for Jim Rulman. He was very dignified.”

Rulman was honored by the Fire Department in January at its 126th anniversary banquet where he received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte said Rulman was the perfect choice for the award.

“We wanted to honor individuals who moved the department forward and we felt he was very deserving of the award,” he said. 

Turcotte said Rulman was “very honored” by the recognition, but also “very humble.” Sanphy said Rulman was deserving of the award because of “what he’s done for the city and how he brought the department to what it is today.”

Sanphy said he first met Rulman when the chief moved next door to him in Westbrook. They then worked together from 1983-1994 in the Fire Department when Sanphy joined the call company.

The mayor said Rulman was a great chief to work with and that he was very professional.

“He knew his job well and was very safety conscious and conscious of the personnel,” Sanphy said. 

Turcotte never worked with Rulman, but said he heard great things about the way he ran the Fire Department.

“He certainly held people accountable,” he said. “He was very much by the rules, but he also had a good sense of humor.”

Rulman, whose wife of 62 years, Arlene Mathieu Rulman, still lives in Westbrook, moved to the city after retiring from the Air Force. He joined in 1951 and served for just over 21 years. The Rulmans and their five children lived on various military bases in the United States and Europe before settling in Westbrook.

As chief, Turcotte said he looked up to Rulman because of his dedication to serving others. 

“It’s inspiring,” Turcotte said. “This is a man who spent over two decades serving his country and then came back to serve Westbrook. It says a lot about his character.”

Rulman’s work influenced not only the department, but the city as a whole, Sanphy said.

“He always kept in mind what was best for the city,” he said. “He was always considerate of the overall effect of his decisions.”

Turcotte agreed and said Rulman was “a visionary thinker.” The former chief brought a lot of change to the Westbrook Fire Department, including the merging of the fire and rescue departments. He also implemented the e-911 system for all of Cumberland County.

Visiting hours were held June 11 and Rulman’s funeral service was held June 12 at St. Anthony of Padua on Brown Street in Westbrook. Rulman was buried at Brooklawn Memorial Park in Portland. 

In his obituary, Rulman’s family asked that donations be made in his honor to the Wounded Warrior Project and the Westbrook Fire Department. Turcotte said many firefighters were present at Rulman’s funeral and that the ceremony had full military and firefighter honors.

“It’s a big loss certainly for his family, but also for his extended family, which is the Fire Department,” Turcotte said. “He’ll always be remembered in our agency.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Former Westbrook Fire Chief James Rulman, who received the department’s lifetime achievement award at a Jan. 21 banquet, died this month in Scarborough.

Former Westbrook Fire Chief James Rulman, third from left, who died June 5, was the city’s longest serving fire chief. Other city chiefs include, left to right, current Chief Andrew Turcotte and retired Chiefs Byron Rogers and Gary Littlefield.

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