Calais Fire Department and EMS Earn Praise For Response to Mill Accident, and Daily Operations

 

Photo: Fire Chief Robert Posick stands next to Calais Fire's sturdy work-horse, their ladder truck. (Photo by Jarod Farn-Guillette).

 
 

By Jarod Farn-Guillette

 At the recent city council meeting, councilor Mooreside took a moment to offer strong praise and gratitude to the responders on the scene at the recent accident at the mill in Baileyville. In his praise he noted that the level of professionalism and preparedness for such a serious incident exceeded that of most Fire and EMS services elsewhere in the state. Following up on that statement and the fire station, Fire Chief Posick elaborated more on the level of training and the skills required to be a first responder in our community. 

Posick noted that the incident at the mill and its subsequent response by Calais Fire and EMS is a common occurrence in our area where one agency, though well trained and prepared, is overwhelmed by the scale of the situation and requires extra assistance from a nearby agency. Such as the case with an early morning call today, Monday the 27th , that required the help of Calais Fire to a structure fire in St. Stephen. In a small area with limited resources, it is this type of resource sharing that makes the difference. For the chlorine spill at the mill, Posick said even though a great team was already in place, due to the sheer number of victims and size of the accident extra help was needed, and granted. Following a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) protocol called Incident Command System (ICS), a national program that all Fire and EMS teams are trained on, Lt. Krug arrived on scene and started a triage system, assessing what victims needed immediate treatment and transportation. Posick noted that no amount of training can ever prepare a team for every incident, but the ICS allows for a “modular [in] organization that is adaptable” to any scenario. With specialized training in chlorine and other chemical spills, the application of ICS allowed for things to “flow seamlessly” between the two different departments. 

When asked about the state of equipment and level of preparedness of the department in Calais, it was mentioned that despite the nearly 33 years of service the ladder truck has seen, it is the quality of the people that makes the department. According to Posick all those starry eyed youngsters, that gaze at a passing fire-engine with mouths gaping, the best skills to focus on for a future in fire and EMS is not what you might think. Posick said he can teach anyone to fight fires, but what he needs are people with practical life skills and interpersonal abilities. He recommends to know your way around an engine and a tool box, be able to operate a chain-saw and be a good people person. Saying that we all have our first families, the department where you work is a second family, understandable by the dangerous nature of their work. 

 

With the industrial base that exists between the mills in Baileyville and St. Stephen, our rail-lines and container shipping in Eastport and local agriculture, unfortunately workplace accidents will occur.  It is a comforting assurance to know when such an accident does happen, we have highly trained and skilled professionals, risking their safety and lives, for ours.