The Eddington Fire Department will have a firefighter on duty 24-7 for the first time in its 47-year history with the hiring of the mostly volunteer department’s third full-time staffer.
The department has hired Benjamin Rogers of Holden to fill the new position Eddington voters approved at the town’s annual meeting on June 15. With the three employees and paid on-call firefighters, there will always be someone available at the station to respond to nearby emergencies and other needs, Deputy Fire Chief Craig Russell said.
The Eddington department has long relied mostly on volunteers and paid on-call members. However, those numbers have declined in recent years in line with statewide and nationwide trends, Russell said, and the department wants to make sure it can respond quickly to emergencies.
“The number of volunteer and on-call firefighters has been dwindling over time,” Russell said. “So we’ve tried to stay at least somewhat on pace and not get too far behind.”
The U.S. had fewer volunteer firefighters in 2018 than it did in 1986, despite having a population that had grown by 87 million people, according to a 2020 report from the National Fire Protection Association.
Locally, many people can find it difficult to volunteer or even do on-call work because of work and family commitments, Russell said. Many work outside of Eddington, making immediate responses to calls impossible.
The department responds to about 450 calls a year, including those in the surrounding towns of Clifton Holden, Dedham, Brewer and Orrington.
In addition to seeing fewer volunteers, Eddington has collaborated more with its neighbors in recent years to ensure fire coverage — something else that has become increasingly common throughout Maine as volunteers decline.
Holden Fire Chief Ryan Davis is the current interim fire chief for Eddington’s department, and the two departments have increased their collaboration over time. Eddington is also contracted to provide Clifton with firefighters and emergency responders.
The desire for a third full-time member isn’t only driven by the desire for faster responses to emergencies. Increased coverage has also allowed the department to make appearances in the community, he said.
Adding Rogers will cost about $60,000 a year, including benefits, Russell said. Due to new revenue for the town, there is hope that he can be added without raising property taxes.
Rogers previously worked as an on-call firefighter for the station and also worked with the department while he was a live-in student firefighter at the Holden Fire Department.
The Eddington Fire Department’s first full-time staff member was hired in 2010 and the second in 2019.
“I have family and friends and know a ton of people in town,” Russell said. “So, it’s just nice to know that somebody is here ready to go whenever somebody needs us.”
While Russell is glad the new full-time position will help increase coverage, he said the department still needs more volunteer firefighters, who are paid hourly when responding to calls.