By Owen Kingsley
December 30, 2021
Maine (WABI) – Maine’s fire departments are facing critical staffing shortages.
“When I started here in 1995, we had a roster of 25. Currently, we are down to 11 staff in total. That includes two full time firefighters,” said Pete Metcalf, the Veazie Fire Chief.
The Maine Fire Chiefs’ Association has sent a letter to Governor Mills asking for just under $4 million for immediate and long term help. “Funding, I think there needs to be an increased awareness to the staffing issues both on the fire and EMS sides,” said Metcalf.
Part of the money they’re asking for would go toward recruiting younger men and women at Maine’s Community Colleges and to fund studies that aim to help replace an aging work force. “Get the younger generation interested in the fire service and interested in EMS programs so we can bolster our staffing,” said Metcalf.
Other funds would be used for retaining firefighters they already have.
Darrell White of the Presque Isle Fire Department is also the President of the Maine Fire Chiefs’ Association. He’s worried if we don’t address the problem now, public safety could be at risk. “When I’m down three people, the rest of those shifts have to pick up those ambulance calls that those three would have normally run which means we’re putting more work load on less people. At the end of the day, tired employees can make bad mistakes that could cost somebody their life or significant injury,” said White.
Governor Mills’ office says they have begun addressing the issue. Maine DHHS is implementing a MaineCare rate increase for EMS in rural areas this coming April. They also provided recent funding to the Maine Fire Service Institute and to the Maine Community College System specifically for workforce development.
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