By Sean Hall
Early this month the people of this state where reminded of just how dangerous the job of being a firefighter is. Captain Joel Barnes died saving the lives of his fellow firefighters, a true hero in anyone’s eyes especially the brothers and sisters in the fire service.
This happened after several articles in the Islander and the Ellsworth American on the state of our emergency services. Men and women who enter into the fire service, emergency medical services and law enforcement do so because they enjoy the job and they enjoy the family aspect of the job.
We are truly a family whether career, part time or volunteer. The career aspect pays above minimum wage, not by much though. Many places offer no or few benefits, long hours, untold time training outside the regular working hours and working in harsh unfriendly environments with people under great amounts of stress, making life changing decisions in a split second. Many work more than one job to make ends meet, and spending more than average time away from family.
This is my own opinion; it doesn’t reflect any department or service I work
for. Becoming a firefighter and paramedic was the most rewarding thing I ever did. My career as a full-time firefighter/paramedic was the high point of my working career. Why did I give it up? I wish I never had, but finances, life style and family would force the career change I have regretted for years. I still work as a firefighter/paramedic and always will. What I miss is the work. Talk to any one in public service they have and still work in a high risk profession. Firefighter is one of the most dangerous professions in the world.
We are dwindling in number, and many departments are getting creative on staffing and responding so everyone is safe. Gone are the days of just showing up to help. It requires training, skill and knowledge to do the job safely. Even when everything is done right, lives are still lost as we were all reminded of in Berwick. This is a profession of high risk and those of us who do this know this. I write this because only the general public can go to town meetings and councils asking to provide and support your emergency services.
Chiefs all over make every effort to recruit, but employers don’t let folks leave, or folks travel out of their towns to work. This stretches career and full-time departments thinner and thinner. Folks, we need to offer better then coffee-shop wages to folks willing to risk and give their lives up to help a stranger at all hours. If we do not start making this career more interesting and provide a benefit package to fit the risk then we will continue to stretch thinner these services. I hear constantly, “There will always be somebody there to do the job.” That is no longer true as two ambulance services in Hancock County alone have closed their doors in the last few years stretching resources even thinner. The articles in the paper over the last month show that we are lacking people willing to do the work, despite efforts to train more.
Emergency services is not for everyone. It is dangerous, high risk work.
Everyone who does the job does so with the intention of going home to family at the end of the shift. Every family member can’t wait for them to come home, they dread every time they hear a siren and hope they never see the chief’s car come down the driveway to deliver the news of the death or serious injury of a emergency service personnel.
Support your career and volunteer departments, ask how you can help support them, or join a department. Help make this state a place where young kids want to stay and get involved in emergency services, not get trained and go out of state to make a living. This is truly one of the greatest professions in the world and I would not trade it for anything. Let’s keep the tradition of pride, honor and duty alive and well.
Sean Hall is a Firefighter Paramedic and has been a Maine EMS Paramedic Instructor Coordinator for many years as well as a Critical Care RN. He lives in Bar Harbor.
Sean Hall is a firefighter and paramedic who has been a Maine EMS Paramedic Instructor Coordinator for many years. He works as a Critical Care registered nurse. He lives in Bar Harbor.