2018-11-02 / In the Know

Metro fire chiefs support Question 5

By B. Michael Thurlow Special to the Leader

The Metro Fire Chief’s Coalition is a group of fire and emergency medical service leaders from several communities in greater Portland including Portland, South Portland, Scarborough, Westbrook, Gorham, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Cumberland and Windham.

We formed this coalition several years ago in order to work on mutually beneficial projects, policies, grants, and initiatives, many of which involve collaboration and cost reduction efforts to better serve our individual communities.

One common concern that all our departments are facing is the current lack of qualified candidates to fill vacant firefighter and paramedic positions.

Each year as we try to hire new trained and certified firefighters and paramedics we find that the candidate pool is getting smaller and smaller.

Part of the reason is we have an aging workforce and a higher than normal number of our veteran members are eligible for retirement.

Some of our communities have needed to add new positions to meet the ever-increasing demands for service in our growing communities.

There is also much more competition for the available graduates resulting in some of the candidates leaving for higher paying jobs outside the state of Maine.

For many years our departments have worked collaboratively with Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) and their excellent fire science and emergency medical programs.

In fact, Scarborough was one of the two original departments that founded the Southern Maine Community College Student Live-in program 30 years ago.

Those programs have been the main supply of the qualified candidates to meet our hiring needs, but they are now struggling to meet current demands.

This fall there is an opportunity to support Southern Maine Community College as well as the rest of the Maine Community College System by supporting Question 5.

A yes on Question 5 will invest $15 million in the seven community college campuses, including $4.2 million right here at Southern Maine Community College for important upgrades to facilities and infrastructure.

As consumers of the well trained candidates that SMCC produces each year in their fire and EMS programs, we ask the public to join us in support of Question 5.

Southern Maine Community College has a long history of producing well trained and capable candidates that end up being hired by our departments to protect all of you and your families.

The support that Question 5 will provide will help Southern Maine Community College meet the ever-increasing need for skilled workers in southern Maine, not only for public safety but many other critical trades.

If you have any questions about his article or any fire department issue you may contact me at mthurlow@scarboroughmaine.org or 730-4201.

B. Michael Thurlow is fire chief for Scarborough.

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