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ME Fire Department to Try On-Call System for Firefighters on Weekdays

Jay ME Fire Truck

Donna M. Perry

Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine


JAY — Selectpersons gave Fire Rescue Chief Mike Booker permission Monday to pay two people $40 per day each to be on call for 10 hours a day, Monday through Friday, to respond to emergency calls.

Booker is looking at options in preparation for putting together the 2021-22 budget. Selectpersons gave him permission to do a trial period to see if that option worked or if another one was needed.

There are not many firefighters responding to calls during weekday hours.

The three people sitting here go to 90% of the calls, Booker told selectpersons. Attending the meeting were Booker, Deputy Chief Cory Leclerc and Capt. Darren Roundy. A couple of others also respond if they are around.

In 2010, the department had 137 calls; this year, there have been 325 to date. And they are going into the department’s busiest month, November and December, Booker said

“We’re doing it with less people,” Roundy said.

The last few calls, he has responded by himself.

“I need help,” he said. “I can’t keep leaving work to go to calls. My kids are sick of me leaving to do stuff.”

Last week, there were four calls on Route 133, one was a fatal, he said. That takes a big chunk of time out of a day.

There have been calls, including for lift assistance he has gone to where he was the only one who responded. In one case, he had to use a rope and pulley on stairs to help the person who had fallen and a wheelchair involved.

“For me it is a lot of heartburn sitting 30 miles away” and waiting to see if anyone will respond, Booker who works out of town, said.

Next to Farmington, Jay is the busiest town for calls, he said.

Selectperson Judy Diaz asked if the department has expanded its services too far.

“We only go to really bad things,” Roundy said, regarding the medical calls such as someone not breathing or significantly bleeding. The town pays for a full-time ambulance service that handles the rest.

Farmington started out like Jay. They got their first full-time chief in 2000 and has seven full-time staff members, Booker said. Rangeley has a full-time fire chief and recently got its first full-time firefighter.

Some departments have one or two people work a couple of days a week.

In an on-call situation, the one or two people would get paid $4 an hour just to be on call and if any emergency comes in they would have to respond, Booker said. They would have to stay within 5 to 10 minutes of the station during their time on call. If an emergency arises they would then get their hourly wage for the duration of the call, he said.

This is what Buckfield rescue does for nighttime coverage. It guarantees they have two members responding, he said. But during the day they have two per diem emergency medical technicians/firefighters at the station. The other option would be to have per diem firefighters in which you would be at the station all day.

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