Weekend Wildfires Leave Local Fire Departments Spread Thin
While last week's stretch of sunny weather made a lot of folks happy, especially those who wanted to spend time playing outdoors, it also kept a number of Firefighters in Eastern Maine quite busy, providing a very challenging start to this year's wildfire season.
Assistant Fire Chief, Cody Sullivan with the Hermon Fire Department says that when fire crews are called away to deal with something like a wildfire, that spreads the crucial resources of equipment and manpower very thin in a lot of Maine communities.
"There's been a lot of news recently...with the staffing shortages for volunteer and career fire departments that everyone struggling with right now, we're going further and further to help other departments out when these fires do pop up."
"In Maine, it's a predominantly a volunteer fire service. Full-time Fire Departments comprise a very small portion of the departments in the state of Maine. The majority of Maine is covered by volunteer fire departments."
"People just aren't interested in those career paths anymore. And as people work two and three jobs to pay the bills, they just don't have time to volunteer in these small volunteer fire departments. So the numbers are just dwindling, across the board, for all emergency services."'
This shortage has become a real challenge for the Emergency Services personnel to deal with, meaning that they're often called in to cover for or assist in other towns, leaving some spots with a shortage in both equipment and the people to perform those protective tasks.
Last Friday alone, Sullivan said members of the Hermon Fire Department responded to three separate fires.
"The first one was in Exeter. The second one was in Corinth, which we were canceled before we arrived. And the third one, we were part of a Penobscot County Strike Team that went to Lakeview Plantation just outside of Brownville, to help them with a wild ground fire."
Sullivan said that fire crews from Hermon, Hampden, Hudon, Glenburn, Carmel and Eddington responded to some of those wildfires.
The extreme heat we experienced this weekend certainly doesn't help the situation much, putting an already dwindling number of firefighters at an even higher risk.
"When the humidity is low and the temperature is high, it increases the fire danger and it increases the stress that our guys and gals are working under."
Sullivan said that if folks would take the time to follow the rules, and reach out to their fire departments to get things like permits and advice, especially when trying to organize something like a controlled burn, that would help lower the risks of accidentally starting a fire that could quickly get out of control, and risking precious lives and resources.
An ounce of prevention and common sense can go a long way this year, and that could be helpful with the limited resources a lot of our EMS folks are dealing with at the moment.