Milford fire lieutenant retires, but not ready to slow down

When Clint LaPlant started working for the Milford Fire Department 26 years ago, the ‘old timers’ told him, “Junior, don’t blink. It will be over before you know it.”

Fire Lt. LaPlant remembered those words Friday as he retired from the department and passed along his collar bars to a new lieutenant at the East Shore Firehouse, Anthony Vitale.

LaPlant started working for the Milford Fire Department in 1990 and has earned a number of awards during those years.

At 54, he said he’s not ready to slow down: Retirement means he will start a second chapter in his life. He will teach EMT and paramedic classes, and hopes to use his years of experience to educate emergency personnel and rescuers in responding to potential terrorist and active shooter threats.

LaPlant’s family accompanied him to the East Shore Firehouse Friday to say goodbye to his fellow firefighters and to pass along his lieutenant insignia to Vitale. LaPlant said the bars were presented to him by Lt. Bill Holveck when he retired, and now was time to pass them on to Vitale.

“It’s time to move on,” LaPlant said, adding that he will miss his co-workers and the work, but he’s ready to say goodbye to “the tones” — the fire alarm signal — and those freezing mornings responding to calls on I-95 or to a boats in trouble on the icy Sound in the winter.

During his years with the Milford Fire Department he has served as commander of special operations teams, including medical officer for the Region-2 Police SWAT Team, was a commander of the water response/dive rescue team and has been involved in planning for storms, hurricanes and floods. He’s been a CPR and first aid instructor during his years with the city, and has taken part in Toys for Tots. He participated in relief efforts during Hurricane Katrina, working directly with FEMA, and was involved in preparation and stand-by with the Urban Search and Rescue/Technical Rescue Team after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The past 26 years have zoomed by, he said. LaPlant has actually worked in emergency services in Milford more than 26 years, starting as a volunteer firefighter with Company 4. He said he’s one of the last few remaining professional Milford firefighters who started out with the volunteers.

He said he’s leaving the station in good hands, praising his fellow firefighters as among the best in the business.

“It’s not just a career,” LaPlant said. “It’s a lifestyle; it’s a calling.”

LaPlant’s wife, Helen, said early on she used to worry about her husband being in a dangerous job, but over the years “you get used to it,” she said. Still, her smile on the day of her husband’s retirement was as broad as his.

On his last day, he recalled some calls, like one years ago when college students were jumping from the windows of a beach area house that had caught fire: No one was seriously injured.

And he noted that a “good fire” in firefighter talk means it was a “bad fire.”

“We’re in a dangerous profession,” he said, “and people don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes. If we make mistakes, people die.”

Fortunately, he didn’t experience any of those critical mistakes.

He still wants to lead and he still wants to make a difference. “I won’t slow down, but no more [fire] calls,” he said.