Winter Harbor Fire Chief Tatum McLean fell in love with the Schoodic Peninsula after visiting his brother, Chad, who owned Nicks Market in Burch Harbor. Moving to Winter Harbor in 1998, Tatum soon joined the Gouldsboro Volunteer Fire Department. Today he is the fire chief for Gouldsboro and Winter Harbor. PHOTO BY BRIAN SWARTZ

Chief’s visit became permanent

Winter Harbor Fire Chief Tatum McLean grew up in Monmouth. He has lived and worked elsewhere in the United States, but his first visit to the Schoodic Peninsula convinced him “this was the place to be.”

Graduating from Monmouth Academy in 1990, Tatum joined the Army as “an M-60 gunner, light infantry,” representing the third generation of his family to serve in the Army. He spent three years at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, where “on December 21st” the sun “wouldn’t even come up. It would get like a dawn for half an hour” and then darken again.

After the Army, Tatum attended the College of Oceaneering in Wilmington, Calif., “to learn to be a hard-hat diver.” Employed for two years as a commercial diver based “out of Morgan City, Louisiana,” he “did a lot of diving, a lot of moving from project to project,” Tatum said.

Meanwhile, his brother, Chad, “moved up here and bought” Nick’s Market in Birch Harbor. While in Maine, Tatum drove to the Schoodic Peninsula to visit Chad. “I loved the area and decided to stay,” Tatum said. “It was the first time I’d been up here.”

He moved to Winter Harbor in 1998 and joined the Gouldsboro Volunteer Fire Department. “I was recruited,” Tatum said, smiling. He soon “attended the Hancock County Fire Academy.” Earning his EMT license in 1999, Tatum joined the Winter Harbor Fire Department in 2014.

The next year, Gouldsboro and Winter Harbor named him chief of their respective fire departments. He splits his time between both main stations (Gouldsboro has two satellite fire stations); his office is located at the Winter Harbor Fire Department. “I’m paid full time, and my benefits are with Gouldsboro, and I am part time with Winter Harbor,” said Tatum, who lives in the latter town.

As fire chief, “I probably average around 70 hours a week,” Tatum said. “You have to be available as much as possible seven days a week.”

All other firefighters in both departments are volunteers. “It’s harder to recruit younger people,” Tatum said.

Dedicated to his profession, he earned his Fire Instructor I and II and Fire Officer I and II classifications and his advanced EMT license. Tatum and Ken McCartney, the GVFD assistant chief, started Schoodic EMS in 2018 after County Ambulance closed. An ambulance was donated to Winter Harbor. “Over at Gouldsboro, we had an ambulance being used as a rescue truck,” Tatum said. “We restored it to ambulance use.”

A volunteer squad comprising drivers and EMTs covers set schedules. “We’re licensed to the EMT level, permitted to the advanced level,” Tatum said.

Since 2014, the Winter Harbor Fire Department has purchased and refurbished a 2,000-gallon tanker from the Lamoine Volunteer Fire Department and has acquired a used 16-foot Boston Whaler, “bought through donations, primarily through a citizen [living] in Grindstone” Neck, Tatum said. The WHFD outfitted the Whaler as a safety boat.

With Tatum and Chad living on the Schoodic Peninsula, oldest brother Jim “came up and started a pizza place when the Navy was here” some years ago, Tatum said. Jim McLean now works for Gouldsboro.

Tatum likes to go four-wheeling from the family camp at the Airline Snack Bar on Route 9. “I go fishing,” often on Jones Pond in Gouldsboro, and “I fish several different ponds in the area,” he said. “I enjoy being outdoors.”

He has two sons. Killian, 19, recently enlisted as “the fourth generation United States Army,” and he plans to be an infantryman, Tatum said. Kollin, 17, attends Sumner Memorial High School in Sullivan.

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