The Bristol Fire Department meant everything to Ray Castro

A tribute to the unofficial historian of the local fire department

BY MANUEL C. “MANNY” CORREIRA
Posted 8/25/21

I remember the day vividly when Ray Castro and I sat down to talk about his beloved Bristol Fire Department. It was a somewhat cool autumn afternoon when the weather was just changing from summer to …

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The Bristol Fire Department meant everything to Ray Castro

A tribute to the unofficial historian of the local fire department

Posted

I remember the day vividly when Ray Castro and I sat down to talk about his beloved Bristol Fire Department. It was a somewhat cool autumn afternoon when the weather was just changing from summer to fall. The Bristol Fire Department, aside from his own family, meant more to this man than anything.

He could tell you at the drop of a hat the date and time of some of this town’s most memorable fires and their ultimate outcomes. This past week, Ray died at the age of 80, leaving behind a trunkful of memories and a legacy that may never be duplicated.

His obituary certainly covered the bases on this man’s incredible journey through life, but it really didn’t tell the whole story, especially the infamous July 10th, 1960 Colonial Inn fire which took the lives of six people, the most in any single fire in the town’s history. He said at the time, “I’ll never forget that fire as long as I live.” Indeed, several decades later, he remembered every single detail of how his fire department responded under such trying and difficult conditions.

A member of the 1959 graduating class of the former Colt Memorial High School, Ray Castro had visions of grandeur as he entered adult life. And it all started with the local fire department.

Ray Castro was born to be a fireman. He worked with some of the town’s most famous first responders, including past fire chiefs Oscar Rishe, Charles “Chucky” Andrade, Wilson Luther, Ed Borges, David Sylvaria, Bob Martin, and most recently, Michael A. DeMello. Ray was the type of guy who got along with everyone. Many claimed he didn’t have a bad bone in his body.

Ray joined the Defiance Fire Co. on Aug. 3, 1960, and became 2nd Lt. in 1965. He continually moved up through the ranks to 1st Lt., 1966-69, Assistant Chief, 1969, 1971-1977, and 1981-1982. He became Deputy Chief from 1979-1980, and Treasurer from 1989-2013.

Furthermore, Ray was a member of the Firemen’s Memorial and Welfare committee, and winner of the Vicki Van Voast Memorial Award in 2010. He became Captain of the Fire Police in January of 2011.   

Ray was so absorbed with the Bristol Fire Department he even wrote a comprehensive history in a book about his home station, the Defiance Fire Co. He had so much history tied up in that one publication that most everyone considered him the unofficial historian of the fire department.

At the annual Bristol Fire Dept. Old Timers Clamboil, usually held in the fall, Ray Castro was one of its biggest supporters. He’d arrive early and exchange pleasantries with many of his colleagues, talking about the old days and how proud he was to be a member of “the best fire department in the country.”

Ray was carried aboard Engine 5 and laid to rest in St. Mary’s Cemetery Saturday afternoon on a hot, humid day filled with emotion. There was hardly a dry eye on the premises.

Ray Castro certainly made his mark in his native hometown and will be dearly missed by the community, but even more so by the people who worked side by side with him all these years, in the most trying and perilous of circumstances, to help make his beloved community a safer place to live.

2021 by East Bay Newspapers

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.