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At least 15 dead as severe weather sweeps across central US; on Memorial Day, IA labor leaders honor fallen workers; Medical center installs microgrid to safeguard clinic power supply; 'Second look' laws gain traction, but MS sticks to elderly parole; Will summer heat melt New Mexicans' cravings for ice cream?

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One congressman cites ways Biden could get more support from communities of color. A new Louisiana law reclassifies two abortion medications as controlled substances. And Ohio advocates work to boost youth voter turnout.

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Smokey Bear thought only "you" could prevent forest fires, but decomposing mushrooms may also help, a Native American community in Oregon is achieving healthcare sovereignty, and Colorado farmers hope fast-maturing, drought-tolerant seeds will better handle climate change.

Volunteer Firefighter Shortage Spurs ME Departments into Action

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Wednesday, October 12, 2022   

If you dial 911, it is more than likely a volunteer firefighter will respond to your emergency, but in Maine, there are not enough volunteers for this important work.

More than 70% of the 338 fire departments in the Pine Tree State are volunteer-run, and rarely do they fight actual fires. Most calls are for medical emergencies, but they also respond to floods, car accidents and even hazardous waste spills.

As climate change brings more extreme weather, firefighters can spend days or even weeks in rescue and recovery efforts.

Dylan Cyr, vice president of the Aroostook North Fire Departments, said communities face an unfortunate reality.

"There's going to come a day that nobody's coming," Cyr stressed. "We're getting more and more calls, and less and less people to run those calls."

Cyr pointed out his departments have responded to more than 3,000 medical calls this year, and about 300 fire-related calls. He noted many departments still rely on word-of-mouth to recruit volunteers, but they are also increasing their social media presence and working to interest high school students, who might consider a two-year certification program rather than leaving town to get a four-year college degree.

The amount of training required to become a volunteer firefighter and maintain the certification prohibits many people from signing up. Some local governments offer volunteers a financial stipend for their training hours or on-call hours.

Sarah Lee, CEO of the National Volunteer Fire Council, said incentives like this are needed, as the lack of volunteers forces many departments to pool their resources and cover larger geographic areas.

"A lot of these small, rural communities are relying on volunteers to respond, and if they don't have enough people, then the response time is going to be even longer," Lee emphasized. "It's really important that they get people that want to step up and give back to their community."

The Maine Fire Chiefs Association is backing a Length of Service Award Program to reward career firefighters for their contributions, but it hasn't been fully funded by the state.


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