At this year’s Town Meetings in Lyman and Dayton, voters will have an opportunity to vote on some very important matters regarding your fire department and emergency medical services.

One proposal is to staff the fire station 24 hours a day. Your fire station is currently staffed from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. with two firefighter II/advanced emergency medical technicians. After 5 p.m., we revert to a system where we hope someone will be available to respond to calls from home.

As I have written in my annual report for the third year now, our communities have outgrown the “volunteer style” approach to staffing our fire and rescue service. In years past, when our department answered two or three calls each week, the volunteer concept worked fine. When the training requirements for emergency medical technicians only required a couple hours of training each month, the recruitment of volunteers was good.

Today, we answer an average of two or three calls each day. Training requirements and the need for critical skills are ever increasing. This has put a strain on our current staff of “volunteers,” who are actually paid by the call. It has become a difficult task for someone to balance work, family and the demands of being a firefighter/EMT.

Over the past few years, we’ve added paid staff to the daytime hours. This has been a tremendous help, yet it only covers half the day and about half of our calls. Last year, 51 percent of our calls were between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. The other 49 percent were evenings and late night calls. Of our 629 calls for service last year, 23 we could not answer with qualified or licensed staff. Our neighboring towns had to cover those calls for us. This caused a significant delay in rendering care and providing aid. This also cost our community approximately $14,000.

This is the third year that I’ve presented proposals to add staff to our fire station. This is the second time the idea has gone to the voters. The proposal that will come before you this June will add $64,200 to the fire department budget. Lyman’s share is 60 percent or $38,520. Dayton’s 40 percent contribution will be $25,680. This funding will allow us to add one part-time firefighter/EMT to be hired on a per diem or day-to-day basis. This per diem shift will be 12 hours a day. This will then give the towns two firefighter/EMTs on duty at the fire station from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and one on duty from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

One person is a start. It takes less time to train a driver than it does an EMT. We have more qualified drivers available to respond to calls than we have licensed EMTs. We also are partnered with Southern Maine Community College’s Fire Science program and have two student firefighters who live in our station. They are a strong part of the solution to our staffing needs.

In order for us to meet the increasing calls for service, it has become necessary to continue our transition from a volunteer service to a combination of full-time, part-time and call staff. Our fire station needs to be adequately staffed to promptly answer these calls for service.

Another matter that you will be asked to decide on, is to approve an increase in funding to the capital account known as the fire truck fund. And to release funds to purchase a replacement for our 1987 Ford Fire Engine. The fire truck fund has not seen an increase in its annual appropriation in nearly 20 years.

I have presented the Lyman-Dayton Fire Commission with a plan for the predictable and planned replacement of our rolling stock. (A copy of this plan is also available at www.gmfd.org.) The plan to replace apparatus is time critical. We need to get started soon so we don’t fall further behind.

It is my sincere hope that you will support these initiatives when voting at your Town Meeting. Please stop by the fire station or give me a call at 499-7878 with any questions.

Roger Hooper, fire chief for Goodwin’s Mills Fire Rescue, Lyman and Dayton