Fire chiefs reflect on loss of Berwick firefighter

AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine - Firefighters across the state continue to pay tribute to Berwick Fire Captain Joel Barnes, who lost his life while saving a fellow firefighter during an apartment fire last week. He was the first firefighter to die in the state of Maine in almost 40 years. Kathy McCarty spoke with local fire chiefs about the loss of a fellow firefighter.

Ask any firefighter and they'll tell you it's more than a job, it's a family. Losing a member of any department is felt beyond town lines and miles away. That's why Ashland's Fire Chief Don Bouley will be attending Captain Barnes' funeral this weekend.

"We lost one of our firefighters over last week and I'll be heading down there."

When a call comes in, firefighters put their training to use, protecting life and property, putting their own lives at risk.

"It's a tough job out there, and the safety aspect of it - people are running out of fires, we're goin' in. It's a big safety concern, and it's very important that we get trained the proper way."

Chief Darrell White of the Presque Isle Fire Department says he's had a number of close calls over the years. One of the most notable was a structure fire in an attic.

"At the time I was actually deputy chief, and we were short-staffed that day, so I was actually involved with part of the structure, and we were gonna go and vent the roof so that we could get access to the attic, and I actually went down through the roof and into the attic. So but luckily a very strong firefighter who was on the roof with me that was in a part that hadn't collapsed was able to reach over and pull me back out."

With smoke and fire coming around him, White admits it was one of the first times he thought to himself, 'This is it.' The Presque Isle Fire Department has been lucky, never experiencing such a loss.

"We've been extremely lucky that we've never had to deal with 'em, so, you know, our thoughts are with them."

Honoring fallen firefighters is something dear to Bouley, who was instrumental in getting a memorial in Ashland to those lost in the Twin Towers on 9-11.

"I don't know what that chief is going through right now, but it's not good. Very, very sad day for those people down there and the family of Joel."