OXFORD — Fire and rescue calls coming in to Oxford have more than doubled in the wake of the pandemic, going from 530 in 2019 to 1,119 in 2021, a 110% increase.

Statistics collected by department officials show that while calls for help did not increase last year and have leveled off, challenges remain to meet elevated demand. Fire and rescue crews are doing more with fewer human resources, and doing more for mutual aid with other towns.

“Our average of calls is standing about 20 a week,” Oxford Fire Chief Paul Hewey told selectmen during a summary review last month. “And we are still increasing – we do a lot of overlap calls. What I mean be that is before a rescue or fire truck can clear their first call, we’re getting another call.

“We’re doing this with only 15 per-diems [staff]. We have a roster of 32, but some of those are fire police and some that may only be around a couple of times a month. We’re okay, but sometimes there EMS calls that happen and when they’re done there might be a fire call and that EMS crew at night has to handle the fire calls also. Staffing is minimal right now. We are working to see what we can do to get more staffing.

Oxford Fire & Rescue Department’s calls have more than doubled over the last three years. Rescue and EMS have accounted for more than 70% of services since the pandemic began.

Hewey said that mutual aid calls in Oxford are running about 50 to 50 overall, from PACE Ambulance Service to other towns, even in Androscoggin county like Poland.

“Everyone is calling for us. Everyone needs help,” he told selectmen. “Like with building fires? We don’t have that many in town. A lot of those are mutual aid calls.”


In 2019 Oxford’s fire department responded to 23 fires for the whole year, compared with 44 in 2021 and 66 in 2022.

EMS calls, excluding motor vehicle-related, before the pandemic were 259. During the first year of the pandemic the number jumped to 502. In 2022 Oxford’s EMS crews responded to 703, a 170% increase in three years.

Oxford’s ambulance service is staffed 24 hours a day, while its fire personnel staffing runs Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

“All other hours are relying on the call company,” Hewey told the Advertiser Democrat in an email statement.  “For Oxford the call company is made up of off-duty per-diems, who may or may not be available.  The voluntary call company is dwindling at a rapid pace, not just here, but nationwide.

“We are all betting busier and relying on mutual aid a lot more. We use to rely on it for building fire, but now requests for mutual aid and for second medical calls with the communities.  We are all sharing and helping with fire and medical emergencies” throughout the area.

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