Volunteer firefighters come from all walks of life

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine - There's no set description on a firefighter; the one thing they all have in common is a big heart. Kathy McCarty met with recent recruits to find out what attracted them to the profession.

A chance encounter while snowmobiling in Aroostook County sparked an interest in joining the Washburn Fire Department for a recent recruit. For Navy retiree Michael Ehlermann, serving others is second nature for him.

"Since I was in fairly good shape for my age, he thought that I should go down there and talk to them, so I did. And it's been a little over a year now and it was decided that I should go to the Firefighter 1 and 2 School and see what that's all about, and I can tell you that it's definitely a young man's game."

He's hoping 22 years of Naval experience, donning uniforms and gear daily, will aid him as a firefighter.

"I watch all these young people put their gear on and off and I'm just not that fast any more, but I can get there."

As a veteran, Ehlermann knows a lot about civic duty and sees this as a way to continue to help others.

"It's a good thing to do to give back to the community. I'm new in the community. You try to make a name for yourself - a good name for yourself and your family, and this is one of the better ways to it. And what a good bunch of people."

For others, wanting to become a firefighter is more than a career choice, it's a matter of following family footsteps.

"I grew up with it. My grandfather was a firefighter and my dad was a firefighter and they were both an EMS as well. And to be an EMS around here, you have to be a firefighter as well, which is kind of fun 'cause you get to drive the big trucks around to the fire scenes and help save people."

A Millinocket native, Desiree MacArthur now attends EMS classes, while also training to become a firefighter with the Presque Isle Fire Department.

"I would encourage anybody to get into it if they're interested in it, but I grew up with it, so it's like another home to me."

The need for firefighters across the state is a growing concern for many agencies. Anyone interested in learning more on becoming a firefighter can do so by contacting their local fire department.