Crews respond to a fire at the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. plant Thursday morning that began as a flare-up in a pile of trash that had been delivered to the incinerator. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

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An October article in the Bangor Daily News on rural fire departments was alarming. We need to examine the root causes of the problems. The shortage of volunteers is due in part to societal changes. These include an increased rate of commuting to jobs out of town. This reduces the availability of people able to respond  to daytime calls. More households have two wage earners, this makes it harder for volunteers to arrange for childcare. The problem is likely to worsen as the population ages.

We need to take bold action. This may involve a complete restructuring of fire fighting services. One option would be to create regional fire districts with a core of paid staff. Just as the regionalization of school districts faced many problems, there are pros and cons to regionalizing fire fighting services.

We can begin by admitting the system is broken. 

Thomas E. Martin

Certified planner