The Legislature is currently considering a bill, LD 1154, to create a statewide recruitment and retention plan for volunteer firefighters and EMTs. As a retired firefighter paramedic and former chief of the Auburn Fire Department, I know how important volunteer first-responders are to their communities and I support this legislation.

The bill would help towns, many of which struggle to find volunteers, to more easily recruit and retain firefighters and EMTs by offering a small, but meaningful, benefit for years of service protecting the community. It would also help larger communities that call upon neighboring towns’ volunteer units for help with major fires or catastrophes. For a chief in a city such as Auburn, knowing that nearby towns have experienced, well-trained volunteers is important.

The time to establish a recruitment incentive for volunteers is long past due, and I strongly encourage my colleagues in the Legislature to support this bill. More than 180,000 volunteer firefighters across 27 states receive this type of support. Maine’s volunteer firefighters and EMTs deserve the same thanks and support.

Volunteer first-responders devote a lot of time to training and preparedness for fires and other emergencies, such as dangerous chemical spills. They risk their lives to protect the public and they receive little compensation, if any.

Passing LD 1154 into law would be one small step to allow towns to show their appreciation and respect for the men and women who volunteer to protect their homes and families.

Wayne Werts, Auburn, state Representative for District 70

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