Firefighters feeling little taxed

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

Times have been taxing for local area firefighters, lately.

Lake Region fire personnel battled three structure fires two days in a row, last week.

They battled a fire at a maintenance shop at a private boys’ camp in Sebago, Thursday morning.

Then a blaze erupted at a commercial garage in Bridgton, Thursday night.

And, a Harrison family lost their home on Cape Monday Road to a devastating fire Friday afternoon, in which the family’s dog perished.

In all, more than a dozen structure fires broke out across Maine, over a 10-day period.

Mutual aid is, literally, a lifesaver, especially this time of year when frigid temperatures grip the Lake Region.

“It’s been very busy, all over the state,” Bridgton Fire Chief Glen Garland said Tuesday. “There was Thursday morning’s fire in Sebago, then Thursday evening’s fire here in Bridgton, and the Friday afternoon fire in Harrison.”

The fire chief spoke about the difficulties firefighters from all of the Lake Region towns face, when they are called out to battle blazes, one after the other.

“Each one takes its toll, in energy and whatnot,” said the fire chief. “Doing this (fighting fires) on top of their regular jobs, does take a toll. It gets busy, and when you go through a period of several fires, people get tired — after running four to five days of (fire) calls like that — and they’re longer calls.”

Garland said the bitter cold weather makes a hard job even more difficult for fire fighting personnel who have to face obstacles they don’t confront in warmer weather.

“The cold weather, obviously, adds to our problem — dealing with water going through hoses and hoping not to have things freeze up — ice on the roads and driveways — and they are more bundled up and running around, so it’s more cumbersome than during the summer — it’s more taxing, in all sorts of ways,” said Garland.

Those who fight the fires face a difficult time, but it isn’t easy for fire-police who direct traffic at fire scenes, either, the chief said.

“The guys directing traffic — their job is just as important, it needs to be done — and they’re standing out in the cold for three to four hours at a time,” Garland stated.

Pointing out that fire departments in the Oxford Hills area, particularly Norway and South Paris, have also experienced several fires in a row recently, Chief Garland said, “It makes you want to say, ‘Enough, already!’”

Hydrant shoveling & training adds to the mix

“Everything is slower and takes more time, in the winter,” said Garland. “Then, the hydrants are often covered by snow banks making for limited access.”

Recalling the snowstorms that were hitting the area two to three times a week, up until just recently, Fire Chief Garland said, “Fortunately, we haven’t had any more snow on top of this. We’d just get these hydrants shoveled and then another storm, and another storm and another storm. It’s just one more thing on the list. It takes a lot of time. This winter, too, we’ve had two different training classes going on two nights a week, plus our regular training once per week, plus hydrant detail.”

It could save a life

The fire chief asked if he could caution the readers of this story about one very important thing: “If there is any way to remind people to keep all of their doorways and walkways shoveled out, so they have a second exit out, in case of a fire,” said Garland.

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