Firefighters feted for burning through 3,000 training hoursWaldo County to host state convention in 2015
Brooks — "Usually when we get together like this it's because somebody died. Today, we're here to rejoice."
Those were the sentiments of Knox Fire Chief Matt Shaw as he kicked off the Waldo County Firefighters Association graduation ceremony Sunday, Nov. 4, at the Brooks Fire Station.
The afternoon was dedicated to honoring firefighters across the county for completing more than 3,000 hours of training at various levels over the last 10 months.
The ceremony included a spaghetti lunch and a cake featuring a flaming gingerbread house, which Ralph's Cafe co-owner Susan Champa provided for the festivities.
During the lunch, Morrill Deputy Chief David Wight showed a slide show of images depicting Waldo County firefighters engaged in various types of training, most of which was conducted at the WCFA training facility on Gurney Hill Road in Waldo.
Liberty Fire Chief Bill Gillespie said the training facility was constructed in the 1980s and has since seen some additions and improvements that allow space for meetings.
Having a facility close to home, said Brooks Fire Chief and WCFA President Jeff Archer, makes it much easier for local firefighters to participate in training sessions.
"We can facilitate any kind of training in Waldo County that the firefighters need," said Archer.
Gillespie said over the past three years, local volunteer fire departments have trained together so often they tend to work as one department during situations when mutual aid is necessary, as was the case at the December 2011 fire that destroyed a church in Thorndike. In that instance, Gillespie said, eight or nine town fire departments that rarely work together were involved.
"It was amazing to see how well everyone came together," said Gillespie.
Gillespie also reminded firefighters and their families of those in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey who are still suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and of the emergency crews now working to assist those victims. That said, Gillespie set up a fireman's boot as the cake was being served so those in attendance could donate money to the Red Cross to help hurricane victims.
Along with the graduation ceremony, which honored local firefighters for completing courses such as the 76-hour basic fire school, the rapid intervention and scene support classes, Gillespie delivered some more good news for the association.
"The 2015 Firefighter Convention will be hosted in Waldo County," he said. "This is the first time Waldo County has ever hosted it."
Wight added that the 2015 state convention would be hosted by an association, not a full-time department, for the first time ever.
Acting State Fire Marshal Joseph Thomas was the keynote speaker for the day. Thomas told the group he'll observe his 40th year in fire service next April and marveled at all the changes he's seen in the field over the course of his career.
"It's an exciting time for young people to be coming in," said Thomas, noting the increased availability of training and specialized equipment. "The opportunities are great."
Thomas said it was impressive to see how well the Waldo County departments have come together in recent years, and that it reminded him of the advice his daughter's former high school band teacher offered about how to get young musicians to gel in the same fashion — "One band, one sound."
"Each and every department in Waldo County will work with those other departments, and they will be one department," said Thomas. "... We all go in, we all go home."