Goodwin’s Mills Fire Chief H. Rodney Carpenter is a remarkably effective grant-writing machine for his small department.

The community in York County will break ground next week on renovations and an addition to its seven-year-old fire station, paid for with $879,000 in federal stimulus funds from a grant proposal that Carpenter wrote, plus $100,000 in local money.

Recently, Carpenter landed a $128,000 grant for new breathing gear for firefighters. He’s pursuing grants to pay for four full-time firefighters, and he has an application in for funding to buy new communications equipment.

That’s quite a bit for a department with just two full-time firefighters, a part-time chief, 55 volunteers and about 600 fire and medical calls a year.

“Yup,” Carpenter said, when asked if it seems like a lot of money, “and we thank you very much.”

Carpenter said the money is there for the taking, so it only makes sense for him to have several grant applications in the works, seemingly all the time.

“When we put a successful grant together, that makes our day,” he said.

The office of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins helped the department win the grants, Carpenter said. A spokeswoman for the senator said she backs not only grant requests for Maine departments, but increased federal aid to all firefighting efforts.

Goodwin’s Mills is part of the town of Lyman. The department provides firefighting for Lyman and neighboring Dayton, Carpenter said.

It also has a “rapid intervention team,” which goes in when a firefighter goes down inside a burning building. That team responds to all structure fires in Lyman and Dayton, he said, along with Biddeford and Saco.

Even though the fire station is just seven years old, Carpenter said it needs an upgrade.

First, it lacks the sprinkler and ventilation-and-exhaust systems that are called for in federal codes.

The four-bay station can hold the department’s three engines, its ladder truck, two rescue vehicles, an antique firetruck that draws parade duty, and the department’s pickup truck. The addition will provide another bay to eliminate some of the double-parking that’s needed now, Carpenter said.

The addition will also provide office space, a kitchen and sleeping quarters — even though the two full-time firefighters work only days. A third firefighter, approved by the town, will also work days — so there will be coverage seven days a week — as will a new full-time chief.

Carpenter, who earns $4,000 a year as part-time chief, said he will apply for the full-time job.

If Carpenter gets the grant for new firefighters, the plan is to have someone in the station overnight, thus the need for sleeping quarters.

Carpenter said Goodwin’s Mills needs the new equipment, facilities and firefighters to keep up with changing times. The 55 volunteers are a bit fewer than in recent years, he said, but the real change is the amount of time that volunteers can pledge to the department.

The department requires at least 48 hours a month for volunteers to turn out for training and be on call, meaning they have to be reachable and can’t leave town.

In the past, Carpenter said, it wasn’t unusual for a volunteer to pledge twice that amount of on-call time, for which they’re paid 50 cents an hour.

If the firehouse is staffed by paid firefighters all the time, Carpenter said, he could eliminate the monthly pledge of time. If volunteers don’t have to commit to long hours on call, he said, he could get more volunteers.

“If the wife says, ‘You have to run over to Home Depot,’ they can do that and not have to say, ‘I’m on call, I can’t leave town,’ ” Carpenter said.

He said he will keep searching for grants to help the department, even though he could rest on his laurels.

“It’s definitely our year,” he said, “and we’re pretty happy with that. Every now and then, your day will come. We are a progressive department and a very active department.”

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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