Longtime Londonderry Fire commander takes over Littleton department

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From left, Battalion Chief Jim Roger with U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Londonderry Battalion Chief of Operations Mike McQuillen during a 2018 visit by the senator. File Photo/Ryan Lessard

LONDONDERRY, NH – Mike McQuillen was sworn in as the new Littleton Fire Chief on Dec. 28, and on Jan. 8 he said goodbye to the Londonderry Fire Department, where he has served for the past 28 years. 

McQuillen said his experience joining the Londonderry department in 1993, shortly after they took over ambulance service in the town, will inform how he will lead Littleton Fire Rescue, which similarly took over ambulance service in August 2019.

One of his first goals will be to train and certify enough of the department’s EMTs to be full paramedics, in order to provide 24/7 paramedic coverage. 

“I think that’s the gold standard that everyone wants to be at,” McQuillen said.

He said he’s been meeting with department heads and with Interim Chief Dave Houghton, who was contracted from Municipal Services Inc., and is looking forward to getting to know more of the community and neighboring fire department heads which are part of the regional mutual aid network.

“Really, it’s a beautiful area here in the mountains,” McQuillen said.

McQuillen comes from a family of firemen. His father served as a fireman in Hampton, which inspired him and his brother William “Bill” McQuillen to become firemen. Bill McQuillen stepped down as president of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire in November and is now serving as the assistant fire chief in Portsmouth.

“Ever since I was a little kid this is what I wanted to do,” McQuillen said.

He started as a live-in student at the Gilmanton Fire Department in 1990 and after joining Londonderry Fire in 1993, he worked his way up the ranks to become a lieutenant, then shift supervisor in 2012 to Battalion Chief of Operations in 2017.

“My hope was to take over for Darren O’Brien when he was to retire as the chief here in Londonderry,” he said.

But when the job opportunity in Littleton presented itself, he decided to pursue it. 

McQuillen said this is not his first experience with the region. Around 2006, he worked at the Littleton Regional Hospital as a per diem paramedic out of the emergency department. 

While he said Littleton has a good downtown area with public water, the town has some challenges Londonderry doesn’t face, such as a more remote rural area without hydrants, and a mutual aid response that takes up to 15 to 18 minutes. 

Littleton Fire Rescue covers a smaller town, with a population of just under 6,000, compared to Londonderry’s 24,000. McQuillen said Littleton just finished the year with 1,300 calls for emergency response. By comparison, Londonderry had about 4,000, he said.

And Littleton has just one fire station, with 12 full-time employees and about five or six on-call firemen, whereas Londonderry has three with about 48 line personnel, and about 60 employees including dispatch.

So far, McQuillen said the department’s size is good enough for the amount of calls it gets. 

Previous Littleton Fire Chief Joe Mercieri retired in May 2020. He served 42 years in the fire service, 15 as Littleton’s fire chief.