FARMINGTON — Members of Farmington Fire and Rescue recently pitched in to renovate and move into the former police headquarters at the Municipal Building.

The department cleaned, painted, built a new door and steps from the office down to the trucks and moved in, Chief Terry Bell said.

“The new space is working great. It is much more functional than the old storage room they were using as an office,” Town Manager Richard Davis said.  “The department members did the work themselves at a tremendous savings to the town.”

Town employees from the building met to discuss how to use the space, and the Fire Department earned the spot, Bell said.

When the building was planned, it was supposed to be a fire station. The town added the police department and municipal offices to the plan, and the fire department was allotted a room designed as storage space on the third level for its office, Bell said.

After 12 years as chief, Bell has his own small office while deputy chiefs share another room. The largest room is cleared for firefighters to use as space for writing reports after a fire, he said.

During a selectmen’s meeting last week, Chairman Stephan Bunker acknowledged Bell’s 35th anniversary with the department.

While 35 years of service to the community is noteworthy, “It isn’t for this department,” Bell said.

Firefighter Doug Oliver has served 48 years with the department, Deputy Chief Clyde Ross and firefighter Junior Turner have put in 40 years.  Deputy Chief Tim Hardy and Bunker are nearing 34 years and several are have served more than 20 years.

“Farmington is very fortunate to have a fire department of this caliber. Terry is a great chief, and the members of his department are all dedicated, caring community members,” Davis said. “They take their jobs seriously, and it shows in the department’s longevity and excellent success record in responding to some very tough emergencies.”

It’s not always an easy job for the firefighter or their family.

Last Saturday, members started the day at 4 a.m. for a call to a sawmill fire. After four hours there, they responded to three more calls throughout the day. Two of those brush fires at the scene of the sawmill fire, he said.

Family has to come first, work and then the department, Bell said.

“If you need time, you take it,” he said.

Starting as a volunteer firefighter at age 20, Bell also worked for the Recreation Department, then the water department while working part time for the Fire Department, he said. After working with his father in his plumbing business, Bell became chief of the department 12 years ago this June.

The worst part of being a firefighter are the fatalities, he said. There’s been a lot of them over the years. “It’s hard as you try….but there’s nothing you can do,” he said.

The best part is the people. It’s a great department, he said. “They are special people. When you need something done, they’ll do it,” he said of the move and the members painting the Farmington Falls fire station last year.

The town with a population of 7,760 continues to rely on the volunteer services of department members, unlike towns such as Rumford and Skowhegan who hire full-time staff for their departments.

Last week, selectmen re-signed a mutual aid agreement among local towns. There’s no other easy answer for mutual aid other than hiring full-time staff, he said. 

Bell looks at the number of hours one town might help Farmington and then need Farmington to respond and help in their town.

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