Auburn Firefighters wear personal protective equipment Tuesday afternoon at the scene of a call to assist a woman who had fallen at a business on Minot Avenue in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Many fire departments in Central and Western Maine have been forced to adjust how they respond to calls in an effort to protect their front-line workers as the coronavirus continues to spread.

For the larger cities, such as Auburn, finding protective equipment for the employees isn’t as much of a concern.

Auburn Fire Chief Robert Chase said that the Auburn Fire Department “has sufficient PPE (personal protective equipment) on hand to meet all response needs.”

“We’re confident that our equipment is providing appropriate protection for our staff in the field and we are following all recommended protocols,” said Chase.

The Lewiston Fire Department did not respond to multiple phone calls for comment on Monday and Tuesday.

For fire and police departments in Franklin and Oxford counties’ more rural towns, the ability to find protective equipment is proving to be a bit more difficult so other measures are being taken to protect staff.


Rumford Fire Chief Chris Reed recommended to the town’s Board of Selectmen that the Rumford Fire Department terminate the department’s EMS services during the pandemic to prevent firefighter exposure to the coronavirus.

The board voted Thursday to approve Reed’s recommendation.

The exceptions will be calls involving trauma and immediate life-threatening incidents.

The Rumford Fire Department, according to Reed, has just 10 full-time employees, with one person already out on medical leave.

“The loss of any to illness would have a huge impact,” Reed said.

The five members of the Rumford Fire Department who work part-time for Med-Care Ambulance are being asked to voluntarily stop working until the pandemic has passed, according to Reed.


Rumford Police Chief Tony Milligan said that all patrol vehicles have been stocked with personal protective equipment, and that supervisors have been provided with face masks to be used if they come into contact with someone suspected of being infected.

In Jay, Fire Rescue Chief Mike Booker said that he and his staff are “not responding to all medical calls.”

“We will respond to the very serious calls,” he added.

He said that his firefighters will be split up and only respond to fire calls in their region.

“If the call is in North Jay, firefighters assigned to that station will respond and the firefighters at Chisholm Village area station will not respond unless necessary,” Booker said.

Booker said that his department has “glasses, N95 masks and gloves,” but no medical gowns. Ambulances will carry them if needed, he said.


Livermore Fire Chief Donald Castonguay said that his crew members are emergency medical responders, “not EMTs,” and will respond to calls involving respiratory or coronavirus symptoms, but they “won’t do anything … until Northstar arrives.”

Castonguay said that the Livermore Fire Department has some protective equipment — gloves and sanitizer — but lacks masks.

He said that he ordered 20 masks from Origin in Farmington, some of which would be placed on the fire trucks.

Acting Farmington Fire Chief Tim Hardy said that his department lacks PPE and masks, and as a result, the Farmington firefighters “are being extra careful and taking precautions.”

Wilton Fire Chief Sonny Dunham said that his department, like others, are using PPE’s and masks “when needed” and sanitizing the trucks after every use, something that wasn’t done before the coronavirus.

Many of the police chiefs in central and Western Maine said that if a call does not require an in-person officer response, they will try to handle it over the phone, and if any one taken into custody is exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus, they make sure that EMS or hospital officials assess them before being taken to jail.

Auburn Firefighters wear personal protective equipment Tuesday afternoon at the scene of a call to assist a woman who had fallen at a business on Minot Avenue in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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