LIVERMORE FALLS – Eighteen-year-old Kurtis Barnett took a firefighting course as a high school junior and fell in love with the job.
Now it’s his passion.
Barnett, a student at Livermore Falls High School and Foster Regional Applied Technology Center in Farmington, continued in the firefighting field as a senior and won a gold medal last month for his firefighting abilities at Skills USA in Bangor.
From hose rolling to putting on gear to demonstrating people-rescue skills, Barnett topped the competition.
He’ll now head to Kansas City, Mo., on June 18 to pit his skills against others in the field at a national competition. He needs to raise $1,200 to attend the competition, he said.
Last summer, Barnett took a municipal fire instructor course and passed it and is teaching when called upon.
Barnett, a firefighter on the Livermore Falls Fire Department who also helps out the Livermore department, said Monday he and a few others teach fire prevention at the Livermore Elementary School. Barnett will also be teaching later this month with John Churchill of Fayette at Central Maine Fire Attack School in Augusta.
Besides helping people and fighting fires, Barnett said, he enjoys the brotherhood firefighters share.
One of his favorite parts after a successful fire suppression, he said, is going back to the station to talk with his peers.
“As a firefighter, everyone looks up to you,” Barnett said. “You’re kind of a role model. It’s another thing about being professional.”
He has learned from fellow firefighters and in class.
“I listen to what they teach me,” he said. “You learn from everybody. A good officer listens to what his firefighters have to say. A good firefighter listens to what an officer has to say.”
Barnett keeps up with his school work and responding to fires and other emergencies calling for firefighters and also works for Ted Berry Co. Inc. in Livermore and Mark Chretien, a contractor, in Jay.
He also takes extra classes at night and weekends to advance his knowledge. One of his classes was wildfire training to fight forest fires. He had signed up to go out and help with wild fires last year and plans to do the same this year.
Barnett plans to attend Southern Maine Community College in South Portland after graduation. He’s been accepted to study fire science technology.
He started his career taking Firefighter 1 at the Farmington vocational center and then started working with the fire department.
“You go on a couple of fire calls and you get addicted,” he said. “I can’t stop.”