Greenwood Fire Department, where Fire Chief Ken Cole raised the bar for his staff on Jan. 5th. Meira Bienstock

GREENWOOD — Maine State Police Trooper Jason Wing attended the Greenwood Fire Department meeting on Jan. 5 to give a presentation on what firefighters can and cannot do according to Maine state law while responding to incidents in their private vehicles.

Fire Chief Ken Cole  said he invited the trooper as a surprise guest because he wanted to ensure everyone showed up for the critical lecture. The objective of the presentation was to reinforce the significance of obeying the traffic laws as violating them could lead to accidents.

“Anytime you have to show up on someone’s doorstep, whether you’re a state trooper or any of us that have to talk to a family and say that you’ve lost a loved one in an accident and then find out that it was a needless, senseless accident – [it] is just horrible,” said Cole.

Some of the things Wing went over included, as highlighted by Cole, “The red light [on private vehicles] does not give you a ‘cape’ to allow you to break the law, including speed limits, stop signs, traffic lights, anytime your school zones, anything that comes up as far as a traffic driving, infraction or violation. Identify as a firefighter, having a red light on your vehicle, that does not give you any special privileges.”

Cole went on, saying his firefighters are instructed that the little red light it is not a Superman’s cape. It does not allow them to fly down the roads.

“It does not allow you to do break any traffic laws or infractions. It’s asking for a privilege. It’s only courtesy light asking for someone ahead of you, to yield to you,” said Cole.

Cole explained to his firefighters that someone else’s emergency is not a reason to drive too fast and that if they crash they are no help to anyone.

Greenwood Town Manager Kim Sparks and Cole have a developed a new policy for responding firefighters. Each individual at the meeting received a copy. They reviewed every line together. Most of the policy constituted driving infractions or improving driving speed etc.

This was followed by a discussion. Afterwards, everyone signed and dated the sheets which went into every individual’s personnel file. This was everyone’s first formal warning. Termination can be had for any violation, after review by the town manager and fire chief.

“And I know it sounds really strict and kind of hard to ask. But again, it’s serious to me, it’s serious to everybody, and we need to start taking it more seriously. This is instituting a policy that actually has teeth in it. It’s not going be a slap on the hand and there’s not going to be any study, any review, and there’s not going to be, well I didn’t know it,” says Cole. “No, it’s: here’s your one warning. The next one is termination.”

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