MILLINOCKET, Maine -- New Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte has a lot of plans for his department, he says, and some are very ambitious.
In an overview gleaned from his first 1 1/2 months as replacement for Chief Wayne Campbell, who retired June 30 after 42 years on the job, the 32-year-old East Millinocket native sees a need for several changes within the department. Some of his ideas are ambitious, but he hopes to use grant money instead of directly burdening local taxpayers, he said.
"The goal is to try to do more with less, and that is the most difficult challenge," Turcotte said Thursday. "But that is true with most any municipal service throughout the state."
Turcotte's plans include:
- A community paramedic program. Millinocket's paramedics and emergency medical technicians would collaborate with area medical centers, particularly Millinocket Regional Hospital, to provide "much-needed outreach to our high risk, most vulnerable population" -- the town's elderly or chronically ill. The outreach would include patient assessments, blood pressure and glucose screenings, and aid in vaccination administration and medication reconciliation and management. Firefighters could do home safety checks and work with social service agencies and patients' doctors, Turcotte said. The program would improve community health and "help save health care dollars by preventing unnecessary ambulance transports, emergency department visits and hospital re-admissions," Turcotte said.
- Establishing a paramedic intercept program that would "provide advanced life support personnel and equipment as needed for other communities [fire departments] that may need assistance for patients that require more advanced life support measures," Turcotte said.
- Increasing regionalized firefighter training, better defining mutual aid agreements with other towns, and recruiting and retaining more call-department firefighters.
Millinocket has eight full-time staff and about 20 active call firefighters, part-timers paid to work large-scale emergencies. They handle about 1,000 calls annually, including about 100 fire calls. The rest are medical calls handled by the department's ambulances, Turcotte said.
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Lincoln Fire Chief Phil Dawson, whose department is about the size of Millinocket's, sympathized with Turcotte's goals.
"We are looking for call and volunteer firefighters all the time. It's a constant need, especially in communities that are aging and have fewer young people living in them," said Dawson, who also runs Howland's volunteer department.
A former LifeFlight of Maine medic who served for three years as fire chief and director of emergency medical services in Kennebunk, Turcotte is "highly regarded, especially in the EMS field," Dawson said.
"He is a guy with a lot of energy and intelligence who can bring a fresh look to that place [Millinocket]," Dawson added.
Turcotte also wants to replace outdated equipment; examine the town fire station, an aging building, for improvement; and establish a capital outlay program to set aside money annually for equipment purchases. Firefighters presently request funds for equipment on an as-needed basis, he said.
"We don't have any dire needs [for new equipment] right now," Turcotte said.
A new fire engine, the department's first such purchase since 1984, is due in January. Turcotte said he would like to see the revenue generated by the town's ambulance services allocated annually to new equipment purchases instead of going into the town's general fund.
One area that won't need any significant change, Turcotte said, is the fire prevention programs Deputy Chief Thomas Malcolm oversees. Those are very strong, Turcotte said, and help account for the relatively few fires that occur in town.
"We are able to reach all audiences in the community and focus on vulnerable populations," Turcotte said, "and we don't do it only in October [fire prevention month]. We do it year-round."