Etna lauds fire department for rescue

Posted June 15, 2009, at 11:09 p.m.

ETNA, Maine — Nine members of the town’s volunteer fire department were recognized Monday night for their roles in the April 14 rescue of a volunteer firefighter who was injured when his pickup truck rolled on top of him, pinning him from the waist down.

The department’s new hydraulic extrication equipment was barely out of the box when Etna Fire-Rescue crews were called to the accident on Lakins Road, Fire Chief Walter Gibbons noted during a brief ceremony Monday as part of a regularly scheduled selectmen’s meeting.

Aaron Brown, 19, was heading to work when he apparently overcorrected while traveling in his Ford Ranger, causing the vehicle to roll, according to news reports of the crash.

Thanks in part to the department’s response and the new equipment — purchased with a $40,000 grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation — Brown not only survived but has been given the green light to return to his firefighting duties, Gibbons said.

During the ceremony, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and a chaplain who responded were presented certificates and gold-plated pins that were miniature versions of the hydraulic rescue equipment they used. The pins and certificates were provided by the hydraulic equipment vendor, Holmatro.

They were: firefighter-EMTs Steve DeWitt, Sean Harrington and Chief Walter Gibbons, firefighters Andy Babcock, Seth Koren, Scott McCaul, John Gibbons, Wayne McAlpine, and fire department chaplain Vasha Piermont, a local clergywoman.

The accolades were welcomed by department members, who have been working to rebuild morale and membership after the late 2007 resignation of their former chief. Rick Goodell was suspended for posting video clips on YouTube of his traveling to emergency scenes with a camera mounted on the dash of his personal vehicle.

Also about that time, selectmen shut down the volunteer fire department for a week, citing a history of insubordination and personnel issues, including alleged sexual harassment and drinking.

Now, under the leadership of Gibbons, who had served as fire chief from 1995 to 2000 before returning to its helm at the end of 2007, and DeWitt, who heads the department’s emergency medical operations, the department’s membership has more than doubled, from 12 to 28.

The revitalized group also is nearing completion of its new firehouse at 17 Shadow Lane, just off Route 2, Gibbons noted.

In yet another move forward, the entire crew now meets the safety and equipment standards required by the state Bureau of Labor Standards, Gibbons and DeWitt said Monday night.

With those initiatives well under way, the volunteer group now is looking for ways to fill the void that will be left by the looming departure of Community Ambulance, which has served Dixmont, Etna, Newburgh and Plymouth since 1994.

As of Monday, Gibbons said the most likely successors to Community Ambulance, which will close June 30, would be either Capital Ambulance or Sebasticook Valley Hospital, both affiliated with Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems.

In the meantime, Etna Fire-Rescue is looking at options for providing ambulance services closer to home.

Among the options Etna is exploring calls for purchasing Community Ambulance’s ambulances and equipment and forming a nonprofit ambulance service community similar to G&H Ambulance of Glenburn and Hudson.

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