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Fort Fairfield Exploring Options to Provide its Own Full Time Fire Department and Ambulance Service


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, September 25, 2019


   Administrators for the Town of Fort Fairfield are currently exploring their options to reinstate a full time fire department and EMS ambulance service for the area.

   This past Spring, the town council voted to not renew their contract with Crown Ambulance due to irreconcilable differences in the way service was to be provided.  They then contracted with Presque Isle Fire Department, which does provide an ambulance service for Presque Isle, to temporarily fill that void until a long-term solution could be developed.  However, with the recent announcement by Crown that they will be terminating their EMS service to all the communities in the region, PIFD may not be able to provide that kind of long-term service for all the communities in central Aroostook County formerly served by Crown.

   Fort Fairfield had a full time, on-call fire department up until late 1998, at which point they transitioned over to an all volunteer fire department.  That decision was made mainly due to the historically low number of structure fires in Fort Fairfield, and to reduce expenses in the town's budget.  The all volunteer staff at FFFD has been undergoing continual training and many have become qualified as EMS technicians and some as paramedics.

   Being an all volunteer staff means the fire department in Fort Fairfield is relying on people who already have full time jobs elsewhere.  If Fort Fairfield is going to provide its own ambulance service, the town will necessarily have to offer full-time, paid positions within the department.  To this end, the town council directed FFFD chief, Vince Baldwin to explore the options for reestablishing a full time fire department with an ambulance service.  According to a memo from Chief Baldwin to the council, fire departments across the state and nation are experiencing difficulty in attracting new firefighters to that career field and an all volunteer staff would be virtually untenable for providing an ambulance service in Fort Fairfield. “Our Fire Department, as many in our state and nation, has had an issue providing fire protection at a high level due to the low interest in citizens to become a paid, on-call firefighter.  Coupled with the need of a majority of the staff to work out of our community on a daily basis,” Baldwin said in his memo. “During the day there is no guarantee that we would have any response to a fire call.  This is not a new issue.  Neighboring departments around the region, the state and over the nation are going through the same issues.  I have worked on community outreach and trying to help with the low numbers of firefighters and have seen very little results.”

   When Crown ambulance exits the EMS response market, that will leave PIFD to cover 13 communities in the area.   “The types of coverage the city of Presque Isle will provide has not been decided, yet.  Due to the coming changes there may be some type of change in the level of service we receive,” said Baldwin, who is currently building a plan to provide 911 EMS response and fire protection to Fort Fairfield.  “We could transition into a combination fire department career and paid, on-call employee.  This would give us the ability to provide 911 EMS response and increase our fire protection in our community.  We would also be able to assist in our regional EMS crisis by possibly covering the towns of Limestone and Caswell for 911 EMS response.  It is my belief that having a full time service is the best decision for our citizens in Fort Fairfield and also for our region.”

   “In April the community gave the council the directive to research having our own ambulance service here in the town of Fort Fairfield,” said Fort Fairfield town manager, Andrea Powers.  “It is imperative to the growth and stability of our community to provide a full-time fire protection and EMS service.”

   At their September, 2019 council meeting, the Fort Fairfield Town council voted unanimously to approve the further research by town staff into providing a full time fire department and EMS service and come back with a plan, with a proposed budget, for future consideration.