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A fire truck for Region 9
With the Region 9 fire truck, from left are Jon Longley, Region 9 instructor; William Curtis, Greenwood; and Albert Curtis, Jr., Greenwood Fire Chief. Behind them, from top, are students Dillon Helms of Woodstock, Cody Dux of Bethel, Marty Letourneau of Greenwood. Inset at left is the Region 9 honor badge. Inset at right is some of the donated equipment from the Greenwood, Delaware Volunteer Fire Department. (Times photos by Bruce Farrin)
MEXICO -- On the morning of Jan. 8, a white fire truck pulled into a convenience store in Rumford where a customer observed the lettering that read "Region 9 Fire Dept."
"Hey, is Region 9 getting a fire truck?" asked the customer.
"Yeah, in about five minutes," responded Albert Curtis, Jr., Greenwood Fire Chief, who was delivering the vehicle to the Region 9 School of Applied Technology's Fire Science program. The truck was lettered by Ross Swan of Greenwood.
At the school, estatic first-year Fire Science Instructor Jon Longley could not help but smile as his students looked over what this fire truck can offer to the second-year program.
"We're fortunate. I have these students for six hours a day, every other day," said Longley. "Al has really hooked us up with tools and equipment. Now we have a tool box that we roll to. We can go to our sites, wherever we want to, with our tools. We're not dragging them on a school bus. It is very professional."
Giving an example of how they had a assimilate before, he said they were getting ladders off a standing ladder rack inside a garage. "That's not the real thing. This is real. Pulling line off a make-shift line on saw horses (before). Now this is the real thing."
Curtis gave some background how this all came about.
"Almost two years ago, a guy (Clay Yokum) came up through in the fall on vacation from Greenwood, Delaware. He was past chief, past association president. And he came up through looking for moose.
He'd been out west and seen elk, buffalo, bison and all that stuff, and had never seen a live moose."
"So he came to Maine looking for a live moose. He drove through Greenwood, heading to Bethel on Friday night as saw all the ponds through Locke Mills. He said, 'I'll go back in the morning and look and see if we can find some. There's got to be some around there.'"
Curtis said that when Yokum came back through Saturday morning, he could see it was Greenwood, so he thought he'd stop in, being from Greenwood, Delaware. He stopped in, but no one in the fire station or the town office. "So Monday morning, he comes in the town office and the town manager calls me and said, 'Hey, I've got someone from Greenwood fire who wants to talk to you.'"
"So I get on the phone and heard that southern accent, "I'm from Greenwood, Delaware and I'd like to see what you guys got (for trucks, equipment, etc.)," recalled Curtis.
"We were out of town at the time on a doctor's appointment, so I come back about 4:30 that afternoon and met up with him, and he talked my ear off for about five hours on different stuff. Since then, he said he couldn't believe what we operate on for a budget, what we have for equipment. He couldn't believe we didn't have the jaws of life in our town, that Bethel and South Paris were the two closest that we had," he said.
Curtis said the two Greenwoods are about the same size in population. "But their operating budget is almost a million dollars, whereas I fight tooth and nail for $70,000."
"(Yokum) He was able to get a set of jaws, the Hurst tools, from Greenwood, Delaware and had them given to us. So he brought them up the next spring and give them to us, and we put them on one of our trucks. Since then, me and my oldest boy took a ride down last spring and came back with almost $75,000 to $80,000 worth of air packs, gear, fittings and all kinds of stuff that they just give to us. When he brought the Hurst tools up, he had a rental van right full of turnout gear and other stuff to give to us," he said.
Curtis said, "They called up and asked if we were interested in a truck. I said, We're always interested. There's departments up here running old military trucks for their attack trucks."
"When I went down to pick up the truck, I told them there was a pretty good chance this truck was going right over to Region 9 for the fire science. The guys were estatic to see that this was going to help the kids," he noted.
"We went back down before Christmas and picked this up (the fire truck). We loaded the back of it with hose and hydraulic fittings for Hurst tools, and then the truck itself. If I taken the trailer down, they had more stuff I could have filled the trailer back up again," said Curtis.
The chief said when they went to Delaware, they donated a six-foot Balsam wreath to adorn the Greenwood, Delaware Fire Station as well as a $150 gift basket from Maine Line Products of Bethel.
He said fire departments down there have equipment just sitting around no longer being utilized. "We don't have the money they have. We have to fight to try to get all this stuff, where they've got it and don't know what to do with it. So at one of their meetings, when I was down there one night, they voted from the floor to set up a box in Greenwood, Delaware to start filling it to send up here in Maine to help us out."
Curtis said that just after Super Storm Sandy, "they actually had that box full and they called me up and said we've got some parts that are needed in New Jersey, and I said it's not my stuff yet, it's yours. Get it to where it's needed. So they sent half to three-quarters of what was in that box to help those in New Jersey during Sandy. And then he just called me on Saturday and said it's almost full again of stuff he's picked up from all over the place. So we've got another trip planned to go down and pick up some more stuff."
Clay Yokum, First Vice President of the Sussex County Fire Police Association, said he had a time share in Bethel when he came up here for vacation. He said they're fortunate to have excess equipment with their department and in his travels, sees fire departments that have a need for this equipment. In the case of the fire truck for Region 9, it will become a tax deductible donation.
But on the personal side, he was really hoping to see a wild moose. "I see all the signs that 'Danger Moose Ahead.' I didn't see one, but I did see plenty of deer."
Curtis said, "He's been up twice now and still hasn't been able to see his moose. I told him if he was able to make it up last fall, I was going to take him to the Heighth of the Land and find him a moose. And then on the second day, if I couldn't find him a moose up there, I was going to take it to Gray Animal Park and let him pet one."
He said the hose, air packs, fittings, etc. his department has gotten to date is nearly $100,000 of equipment. The chief guessed that this truck is valued around $35,000 to $40,000. The Fire Science program has also gotten some $1,800 in equipment.
Curtis said they are working on a getting a truck from Delaware next June for his department.
Longley said, "The reality is is that this piece of equipment is in good operational shape, and is probably better than some local departments that offer fire service protection. And we're a trade school. I'm just excited about that. This is realistic."
Longley said that presently, there are four second-year students and nine first-year students, from a variety of sending schools.
Curtis said that last year, he had two people from the fire science program with his department as junior firefighters. This year, he has one, Marty Letourneau, a second-year student in the program.
"With the fire service nowadays, you're always worried about manpower. And if you've got a program where you've got the juniors into it, there's your new blood coming in. And you've got to do everything you can to support that because that's the fire service in the years to come, the juniors," he said.
Curtis said, "Once they get this registered and everything else, they'll be able to roll this into the school during the days when they're going to have the recruiting thing. So the kids will see it."
Longley added, "We go to talk and say this is our program. Nothing says it more than looking professional. Of course, they have job pants and job shirts. But this (the truck) completely elevates it."
"This is a real life experience. It's a real truck with real equipment that's practical for real situations in the fire service. Instead of simulating get off a truck, or pulled hose from a truck, using saw horses or what have you, this is the real deal. This is an in-service, working fire engine. It's a piece of apparatus that pretty much going to be our rolling tool box," he said.
So instead of having to transport to different fire houses, and try to coordinate with difference fire chiefs and the people they have on, "we have our equipment that we can put right to work. When we to visit the different fire houses, at least they will have a baseline working knowledge of what they're looking at or what their touching," said Longley.
"Now I can offer the EVOC (Emergency Vehicle Operations), which is something that the area chiefs want. A good majority of the students in our program have a driver's license, so if I can offer them a credential of having a EVOC certificate, and now also we can pump, so they can have a pump certificate. In other words, their resumes in this area are going to look much better," he noted.
Longley said, "A good portion of the fire service anywhere in Maine have just declined in membership and there's nothing for new membership, or minimal at best. So this is a win-win situation. Even if these kids go on and move to East Lebanon, it doesn't really matter because their going to provide a service to that community that they end up in."
"When these students get out of this program, they can challenge the pro-board test to do the skills as well as the knowledge written piece and be credentialled. They could go to work in a fire house like Portland or Auburn or Lewiston, Freeport or wherever. We're putting some kids on the street with work skills, too," he said.