Bill to recruit, retain firefighters introduced to Maine House
AUGUSTA – House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, will introduce legislation during a public hearing before the Legislature's Education and Cultural Affairs Committee Wednesday to spur recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters, a critical need for rural Maine.
"I grew up going to the Belmont Fire Department for chicken barbeques with my uncle because he was a volunteer firefighter," said Herbig, in a press release. "Our fire departments are more than emergency responders. They are our relatives, neighbors and integral members of our community. This bill is about rural Maine and the fact that our firefighters deserve more than what we've given them."
LD 1845 "An Act to Provide Incentives to Attract Trained Firefighters to Maine and To Retain Trained Firefighters by Expanding the Provision of Live Fire Service Training" would require the Maine Fire Protection Services Commission, housed within the Maine Community College System, to establish a grant program to provide funding for regional training facility improvements.
The bill would also make an ongoing General Fund allocation of $1 million dollars to the Maine Community College System's Maine Fire Service Institute, which is already authorized to issue grants, beginning during the 2018/2019 fiscal year.
Maine is one of a few states in the nation that has no central live fire training facility for firefighters and in fact, none of the regional training sites in Maine are owned or operated by the state. Right now, training is limited to six locations, primarily in the southern part of the state.
That means most rural firefighters are forced to drive hours to and from their mandatory training sessions.
"Maine's firefighters already risk their lives to protect our families. Now, we're going to ask them to do it without the training they need to protect themselves? It's ridiculous," Herbig said.
The newest live fire site was built in 1995. According to the Maine Fire Protection Services Commission 2017 Regional Live Fire Training Facility Needs Report, no facility in Maine currently meets standards relevant to all of today's firefighting needs. Every fire training facility in Maine needs ongoing structural maintenance and repairs, some significantly.
See related articles published in the Pen Bay Pilot