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Maine junior firefighters to be trained to help dwindling volunteer numbers

“This program is really important to the cultivation of new firefighters in this community,” Dover-Foxcroft Firefighter Benjamin Fagan said.

MAINE, USA — Rural Maine is struggling with a first responder shortage, and it's not a new issue.

For towns like Dover-Foxcroft and Greenville, the fire departments are almost entirely volunteer-based. Fewer crew members can make responses more difficult.

“The general interest in being a volunteer firefighter in rural America has been on the decline for a while. We are seeing it here. We are seeing it in some of our local communities," Benjamin Fagan, a firefighter with the Dover-Foxcroft Fire Department, said. 

One way the departments have fought against the shortage is by using their junior firefighter programs to try to help increase staff.

“Over half of the Greenville Fire Department members now have been junior firefighters at one point," Sawyer Murray, the Greenville fire chief, said. “So the fire department, at least up here, tries to push that program to ensure that we gain members in the future and hold onto those members in the future.”

The same goes for Dover-Foxcroft Fire Department. According to Fagan, half of their volunteer staff went through the Junior Firefighter Program.

High schoolers who attend Foxcroft Academy and Greenville High School can train with the fire departments in exchange for school credits.

The training provided also earns the students their interior firefighter certification and can join the ranks as a crew member once they graduate and turn 18 years old.

One student who graduated Dover-Foxcroft’s program has already tested to become a nationally certified EMT and will start as a full-time firefighter in the coming weeks. He also just graduated high school this past spring.

“I took the basic fire academy as soon as I could when I turned 16. It really opened my eyes to what the fire service is about. Really, it made me realize that this is what I want to do for a career honestly,” Carter Merrill, a recent graduate of the Junior Firefighter Program, said.

In July, Junior Firefighter Devin Lauritsen turned 18, making him an official member of the Greenville Fire Department. He plans to use the skills he learned in the Junior Firefighter Program to become a full-time firefighter.

“It’s eye opening for kids that haven’t seen stuff like this before or are interested in what we actually do,” Lauritsen said.

Lauritsen was also the last junior firefighter for the Greenville Fire Department. If anyone ages 14 to 18 in the Greenville area is interested in the Junior Firefighter Program or just volunteering, you can reach out to the Greenville Fire Department at 207-695-2570.

Anyone in that same age range attending Foxcroft Academy can get an application for the Dover-Foxcroft Junior Firefighter program at the fire station between 8am and 4pm, 7 days a week. 

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