The South Portland Fire Department received a Heroes with Heart Award on June 29 in recognition for the program’s assistance to the Farmington Fire Department after an explosion in September. Courtesy photo of Robb Couture

SOUTH PORTLAND — On June 29, in recognition for supporting fellow firefighters after an explosion and tragedy in Farmington on Sept. 16, 2019, the South Portland Fire Department Peer Support Team was awarded a Heroes with Heart Award.

The Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) awarded and recognized the team, Capt. Robb Couture, public information officer for the South Portland Fire Department, said.

Established into the Portland community in 2004, TIP is a program of trained volunteers who, at the request of fire, police, and hospitals provide support to people after a traumatic event has occurred, Leslie Skillin, program manager, said.

A big purpose for the Heroes with Heart award is to recognize the lesser known acts of kindness that first responders provide in times of traumatic events, she said.

“It’s really important to recognize the quiet, subtle acts of kindness that occur by the men and women of our public safety and first-response agencies,” Skillin said. “The Heroes with Heart is a way of making sure that we have a moment to recognize those officers and nurses.”

Two awards went to South Portland this year, one for the fire department’s Peer Support Team in its assistance to the Farmington firefighting community and another for Lt. Todd Bernard of the police department, who was a Heroes with Heart Honoree for 2020 after comforting a family that experienced a loved one’s death from an overdose, Skillin said.

The South Portland Fire Department Peer Support Team, which is trained to give aid to those who have gone through trauma, provided support in Farmington after a propane explosion in September of 2019 killed one of the Farmington department captains and injured seven others, six of whom were firefighters, Couture said. One of the injured individuals was sent to Massachusetts for treatment.

“It was weeks before (some of the injured) were back home so we tried to have some folks for peer support,” Couture said.

Skillin said that TIP noted and recognized this subtle act of support.

“The explosion made the news, but the work the fire department provided on their own time was just a quieter act of kindness,” she said.

Each year, TIP holds a ceremony to recognize individuals and departments within the community, but because of COVID-19, the program instead went around to each organization separately to present the awards, Couture said.

Skillin and Couture said that the two programs have worked together for the past couple of years.

“South Portland Fire has always been a huge supporter of our program,” Skillin said. “Their firefighter union has donated to us for the past several years. We go to their open houses — we drop off food. I would say we have always had mutual respect for each other’s work and make sure we support each other.”

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