On Sunday, Feb. 10, as the recent record-breaking storm ended, Portland citizens, business owners and visitors were seeing our fire department already out on city streets clearing the nearly 2,000 fire hydrants, which were mostly buried under 3- to 5-foot snowbanks.

This is no easy task, considering our department’s reduced on-duty staffing level for six engine companies, four ladder companies, the heavy rescue and four advanced life support ambulances.

That means that the 33 firefighters (three per truck) and eight firefighters on ambulances throughout the city clear these hydrants. Also, the fireboat firefighters (two) and the Air Rescue crew (three) at the Jetport clear the hydrants in the immediate area of these two locations.

The efforts of numerous citizens help clear some of these hydrants, and I know it is appreciated by our firefighters, as they churn through the streets waiting for an alarm or an emergency to only temporarily interrupt this physical detail.

We do not usually think of these yellow “fire plugs,” as they were called, unless water is needed to extinguish a fire that kills, injures or destroys people and property.

The conflagration on July 4, 1866, destroyed more than 1,500 buildings here. Because of this, city leaders established the construction of a water system to Portland from Sebago Lake. Water began to flow through those pipes and into these hydrants in November 1869 to better safeguard our city.

Water continues to flow here today, and our firefighters continue to clear the hydrants. We should all feel proud and thank these men and women and the responsibility they uphold. They are truly “first responders” who are there for us in any emergency, usually in less than four minutes.

No better tax dollars and service can be spent.

Michael Daicy

retired firefighter, Portland Fire Department



Lifting combat ban allows progress toward equality


It’s about time! Bravo to the Pentagon and to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for allowing women the chance to fight alongside their male counterparts on the front line.

Women have been in dangerous situations since the beginning of our military, nursing soldiers on the battlefields. But it wasn’t until President Truman’s Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in 1948 that females could officially participate in the U.S. military.

The philosophy that women are inferior to men was not new to me, growing up in rural Maine. To see how highly males are valued in the community, one would simply need to compare the turnout of a boys’ soccer game to a girls’ game at my old high school. And even though we were more skillful, had a better record and were more humble, the “heroes” of the town were always the boys.

Gender inequality is alive and well in this country. On average, women are still only paid 77 cents for every man’s dollar.

Even in my field of social work, a field that is made up overwhelmingly of women and is known for fighting against social injustices, the higher up the position ladder you look, the more men. In fact, the directors of the two agencies I have worked for have both been male.

There have been advances in the fight against gender inequality.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act has made it more difficult for employers to discriminate on the basis of gender.

Women are obtaining secondary education more quickly compared to men.

And with the announcement of the lifting of the ban on women serving in combat zones, the importance of the roles of women in the military will be cemented.

Sara Cyr-Jordan



Guns in home or business can present risk to owner


Again the heated argument about the right and the need to bear arms is abroad in the wake of the recent slaughter of children and their teachers in Connecticut. Some say that if someone in the school had a gun, it may have stopped the gunman, or not.

But in all this clamor, there is a question that I have not heard raised, and it is critical for gun advocates to answer:

Where is the gun in your home? Is it on your person? In a drawer in the kitchen or bedroom? Is there one in each room?

How do you get to it soon enough to threaten the intruder? He won’t wait, and any aggressive move would certainly be matched with violence.

So, how does having a weapon in your home or business protect you and others from this type of violence? Or does it add more firepower to a volatile situation?

Mel Howards



Criticism of AR-15 based on emotions, not on facts


Do hunters in Maine use AR-15-style firearms for hunting deer? The answer is “yes” – the public and government are only looking at the gun basically for its color. For years any gun with a wood stock has been acceptable, but plastic and black, not so much.

The AR-15 platform – so much maligned, especially by our troops in the Vietnam War, but now so perfected – is the classic firearm of the next century. Two pins separate the lower control group from the upper. The upper has been transformed into a versatile firearm that its designer, Eugene Stoner, could have never imagined.

So do Mainers use the AR platform for hunting? It really doesn’t matter so much that they do, but they may.

One can purchase a number of gun magazines (readable, not capacity) that explain how the platform and available calibers are used for hunting. So to categorize that any type of firearm is not useful for hunting is just biased against guns.

Any firearm is useful for hunting. Hopefully, it never again is an issue in this country that we have to hunt for our own meat instead of buying it. All the anti-gun people will become hunters again, as our forefathers did to survive and provide protein for their families, as grocery stores and the convenience of commercially packaged meat did not exist then.

It is not the action of the gun. It is the action of the person. People in this country do not drive their cars right and kill others. People do not do a lot of things correctly and harm others. It is not the tool. It is the mind.

Albert Bergeron