WEST PARIS – Although the town’s Fire Department is receiving help from South Paris Fire Chief Brad Frost and his crews, town officials are studying other options to strengthen West Paris coverage.

Struggles for the department began in early August with the resignation of Chief Mike Akers, who moved to Bridgton. At the time, none of the 16 firefighters on the active roster wanted to become chief.

Veteran firefighter Doug Penley stepped forward to fill in as interim chief until a person could be found to take the post full time.

Since that time Penley, Frost and the few West Paris firefighters have kept the department running and able to respond to emergencies by having the Oxford County dispatchers summon both towns when a response is needed.

However, selectmen and Town Manager Donald Woodbury felt that the town’s Fire Department needs strong leadership and ongoing training.

As a result, discussions are now being planned between West Paris and the neighboring town of Greenwood, which will also be needing a new fire chief after the end of the year when current Chief Raymond Seames retires.

The plan, according to Woodbury and Greenwood Town Manager Kim Sparks, is to arrange a joint meeting of town officials to discuss a possible merger between the two fire departments.

Speaking for West Paris Selectmen, Chairman Jim Johnston said last month, “This may be the way to go if Greenwood is interested in a merger. I feel we could help each other and build a strong joint fire department. It would be worth a try.”

Both boards have indicated an interest in discussing the issue as soon as a convenient time for both can be arranged.

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