Mutual Aid Between Emergency Services Critical to Response in Aroostook County

Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 1:08 PM EST
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Often when a large fire breaks out, Fire Departments will call on neighboring towns to provide mutual support and fill needs with personnel or equipment. But how critical is mutual aid to Aroostook County? NewsSource8′s Brian Bouchard has the story.

“It’s critical, if I were to put it at anything. Our entire county has for many years in the past and going into the future going to be relying on mutual aid.”

Mike Divito, Firefighter/EMS for Caribou Fire says county fire departments, whether full time or volunteer rely on mutual aid to fill gaps left by personnel shortages or equipment, especially with larger fires.

“Today more than ever, help is very much needed in this particular field. This last fire that we had on water street was a large fire for caribou to handle. We called every neighboring fire department to come give us both fire apparatus and tools and personnel.”

Divito says the world of Aroostook County Emergency Workers is a small one, with crews from neighboring towns often knowing each other personally, making collaboration during the heat of the moment significantly easier.

“We’re all willing to give a hand to them and they’re all definitely willing to give us a hand and like I said, we all pretty much work together and we know each other personally and it’s critical to us to maintaining a very safe environment for what’s going on at that particular incident.”

While the Caribou Fire Department is staffed with full time firefighters, Darren Woods, who is Fire Chief of North Lakes Fire Rescue is all volunteer. He says mutual aid is extremely beneficial when you need the right tool to get a job done.

“Different departments have different things that they can offer. Most everyday calls we’re looking for water, but there are times when, in a bigger town, they’re looking for an engine. Mutual aid departments can bring in those specialized assets, either a tanker for more water, an engine for more capacity for pumping or even specialized assets such as rescue sleds, four wheelers, snow sleds or ladder trucks.”

Woods also acknowledges that mutual aid can fill the gaps as far as personnel shortages are concerned, and with more personnel on scene, communication is key. He says that since 9/11, Emergency Communications have been overhauled to allow departments who may not normally communicate with each other via radio, to have a way to share information on the scene.

“We’ve created things like a bank of channels that we call the conops channels. If my department and your department didn’t have similar frequencies or didn’t have each other’s frequencies in our radios, we at least have those conop channels so that we can come in and communicate on that channel.”

Woods went on to say that a adage often embraced by county emergency workers is “Together we’re stronger” as they have seen firsthand, time and time again.

Brian Bouchard, NewsSource8