Portland’s fire chief and the city have acted bizarrely regarding this latest accident involving the fire boat. Everything is vague or secret. It seems like the chief covers for his men, then a city spokeswoman covers for him. The dangers of the current training and evaluation process revealed by these accidents must be addressed immediately.

The fireboat is the islanders’ lifeline. Imagine an elderly islander having a stroke or heart attack or one’s baby being in respiratory distress. If someone dies due to delay caused by an accident, apologies, investigations and lawsuits won’t bring back one’s family member.

As a retired 30-year USCG veteran, I believe a licensed Coast Guard captain should be on board. I worked with NYC fireboat captains on OPSAIL 86, and all their captains are licensed. The Portland fireboat has a licensed pilot who is a maritime school graduate, and he has had no problems. I read that there are other licensed captains, too.

The current situation worked for years, largely because the “old timers,” firefighters who operated the fireboat, were often islanders and lobstermen who knew every rock in Casco Bay and could navigate in all kinds of weather. In the absence of that kind of experience, a better plan for qualifying the captains must be developed.

I think the chief should declare that for the immediate future, only licensed captains may operate the fireboat in emergencies, then during his “sit down” with the Coast Guard, develop a solid plan.

Licensing and maintaining certification will be a bargain when contrasted with the serious risks in the current situation.

William E. Mulkern, USCG Retired


As a Portland citizen I felt compelled to write regarding the negligent handling of the new $3.2 million fireboat, which suffered $38,000 in damages when it ran aground last week. This second costly incident in such a brief time, was caused by pure negligence, and if any injuries had been sustained, I am sure the city would have been sued.

The boat was being used for pleasure purposes. The accident happened in a particularly rocky section of Casco Bay, which is a well known dangerous area. The boat incurred damages of $90,000 when it ran aground less than two years ago.

Nicole Clegg, the city’s spokeswoman would not comment on the three-day suspension of Firefighter Joseph Murphy or the 10-day suspension of Capt. Christopher Goodall. She also would not comment on the investigation, citing state law and the city’s contract with the union. I thought that would be general public information.

Bill Nemitz’s column on Oct. 23 was excellent. I, however, felt the urgency as a citizen of Portland to write a letter expressing my feelings. It never should have happened and I hope it will not happen again. Thankfully, we are talking about repairable damages rather than injuries.

The city fireboat should never be taken out for pleasure or family outings. How much wasted money on fuel alone?

Howard Rennie


Who knew? Portland has a party fireboat and it’s available for family outings!

There ought to be a taxpayer alert somewhere here, but apparently the city of Portland hasn’t gotten around to issuing it yet. But if the PFD is going to allow its premier firefighting vessel to be used this way, then it ought to assume some responsibility when the boat sustains damage.

Repairs are estimated at $38,000. The deductible is $25,000. Presumably insurance will cover the $13,000 difference but that leaves $25,000 to be paid by (1) the taxpayers of Portland, (2) the firemen responsible for taking the vessel out without authorization for a little family cruise or (3) the fireman’s union as a show of solidarity.

My question is this: Who’s going to man up?

David Barber


Sacopee fan questions disparity in coverage

I was very disappointed in the Maine Sunday Telegram’s sports section Sunday with regards to coverage of the Western Maine Class C field hockey semifinals.

Both semifinal games were thrillers decided by penalty corners, but the differences in size and detail between the articles was glaring.

The No. 1 seed, Sacopee Valley, defeated a tough Traip Academy team in a nail biter. Yet despite being the top seed, Sacopee’s win received no headline, and a bare-bones four paragraph write up tucked near the bottom of the page with only two players mentioned by name.

North Yarmouth Academy on the other hand, despite being a lower seed than Sacopee, received not only a headline but a 14-paragraph blow-by-blow retelling of their defeat of Lisbon complete with player interviews.

In covering two remarkably similar games, why was so much print dedicated to the lower-seeded team as opposed to the top seed? Why such a huge difference in the size and detail of the articles?

Was it a matter of simple geographic convenience for the Press Herald staff writers not bothering to take the 45-minute drive to South Hiram to cover the Sacopee Valley game? Or was it something else?
Have the disparities between the haves and have-nots reached all the way down to the coverage of Western Maine Class C field hockey?

Ramona Smith


A recent hospitalization illustrates drug problem

Thank you for your extraordinary series on the horrific scourge that prescription painkiller addiction has brought to Maine.

A recent hospitalization taught me that dangerous painkillers with a high street value are too easy to get.

I spent two days in the hospital for an acute infection, centered in my hand. Although my condition caused some serious discomfort, I was not suffering severe pain. A dose of Tylenol readily made me comfortable.

Even though I never once complained of pain, I was prescribed Percocet in the hospital and sent home with a Vicodin prescription that I neither needed nor filled.

After reading your series, I realized how dangerous that prescription was. I am at a loss as to why my doctors (who otherwise gave me excellent care) would so blithely prescribe a drug with such a damaging public health record when I clearly didn’t need or request it.

Jeanne Hey

Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

University of New England