RICHMOND — By early next year, members of the Richmond Fire Department will be able to render a higher level of medical aid when they respond to accidents and fires in town.

That’s when the department’s first responders will have completed their training, Fire Chief Matt Roberge said, and by then, the department might have the equipment it needs to support that work.

“It will supplement what Gardiner provides us for (emergency medical service),” he said.

Gardiner Ambulance is a regional service that covers about nine towns, including Richmond. At any given time, one or both of the Gardiner Ambulance rigs might be responding to a call or returning from a hospital transport in Augusta or Lewiston.

Roberge said when a call comes in to Richmond, having first responders in Richmond speeds up response to emergency calls in town. Currently, firefighters can administer only basic first aid and CPR.

“Gardiner has a great response time no matter what, but if we can provide the citizens with some extra assistance before Gardiner gets here and/or let Gardiner know what the call is, it’s just a good service for the town,” Roberge said.

Town and fire officials have been talking about the initiative for about a year and a half.

John Bellino, Richmond’s deputy fire chief and currently the department’s only paramedic, is spearheading the project. Richmond is the only town in Sagadahoc County without some sort of first responder service, he said.

Getting to this point required an application to the Maine Board of Emergency Medical Services, informational meetings and outreach in Richmond, and securing support from elected town officials and residents alike.

At Richmond’s Town Meeting in June, a straw vote of the residents who attended showed overwhelming support for the idea.

“When they asked if anyone opposed it, no one showed opposition,” Bellino said.

Richmond’s contract with Gardiner Ambulance will not be affected by this change.

“I think it’s a really good thing, personally,” Gardiner Fire Chief Al Nelson said.

The geography of the region Gardiner Ambulance serves means response times are longer to some parts of Richmond.

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

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