Greg Carman was 27 when he started as a Milford firefighter in 1988. He had been working various jobs, delivering office supplies, lifeguarding for the city, when his father saw an ad for a firefighter test in the paper and suggested his son give it a try.
Carman did, and the rest is history, so to speak. He retired last Friday, surrounded by fellow firefighters, many of whom he has trained.
Carman worked as a firefighter for 20 years, working all the stations in town but mostly on the east side. Later he was named lieutenant at Station 6. He was named training captain around 2013, working at central headquarters in downtown, where he also acted as the public information officer for several years. Carman also spent 12 years on the dive team, the last four as team leader.
He remembers, of course, the big fires he’s fought. Santes Manor in 1989 was his first big fire, and he remembers there were reports of a firefighter trapped inside the building as they were fighting the blaze. According to old news reports, “The lost man called for help, and firefighters came through the back of the building and found him quickly.” The firefighter made it out safely.
There was also Milford Fabricating in 2009, a raging fire that destroyed a longtime local manufacturing company, which reopened seven months later on Bic Drive.
Service to the city is a family tradition, Carman said, explaining that he has mixed emotions leaving his longtime post. His late father, Stanley Carman, was head librarian in Milford for 20 years; his late mother, Florence, was a media specialist in the Milford Public Schools for 22 years, and his sister, Victoria, also deceased now, worked for the Public Works Department for several years.
On Friday, Fire Chief Douglas Edo talked about Carman’s years with the fire department, especially his penchant for teaching. Edo said Carman’s love of training and his abilities ultimately have made Milford’s firefighters safer.
“I didn’t work with Greg that much over the years,” Edo said. “But I watched him as he was promoted. Even when he was a lieutenant he wanted to train the younger firefighters.”
And there’s a lot to be said about training coming from someone with 30 years’ experience. “You learn things you don’t learn in a book,” Edo said, adding that Carman was very good at what he did.
Battalion Chief Anthony Fabrizi worked side by side with Carman in the training division for three years.
“It’s very challenging but it offers an opportunity to mold a department and shape the skills of the fire department, and keep the firefighters safe,” Fabrizi said. “You need constant attention, on and off duty. It’s not a 9 to 5 job. [Greg] rose to the challenge and did a great job.”
The training is what Carman said he will miss the most: “Accomplishing something that improves the way of life for the guys, making the job easier,” he said.
Carman’s wife, Debbie, said she will rest a little easier now that her husband will be retired. She worried about him over the years, and recalled that one year, early in their relationship, he was late for a family event and showed up with burn marks on his face.
She knows he will miss the camaraderie among the firefighters, and he’ll miss being a part of the community that helps the rest of the community. “He’s served and helped people for so long,” Debbie said.
But Carman said it was time. A firefighting job takes its toll on the body, and Carman said he was starting to feel those aches and pains. So from now on, he said he’ll be catching up on some projects at his house in downtown Milford, and working with Debbie on some of the more mundane household chores.