Six Harpswell volunteers recently graduated from firefighter training programs, giving the town it’s biggest public safety boost in years.
Three men each from the Orr’s and Bailey Islands and Cundy’s Harbor fire departments successfully finished months of training required to become certified interior attack firefighters, allowing them to enter burning buildings in teams to rescue anyone trapped inside and put out structure fires.
Half of the volunteers graduated from the Maine State Fire Academy Firefighter I & II Class, while the other three completed the same program offered by the Tri-County Training Association
Harpswell’s newest firefighters, from left, Sven Pulsifer, Sean Ruel, Jon Petkers, Peter Vincent, Zachary Stoler and, insert, David Allison.
"The addition of these six qualified firefighters to the rosters of the Orr's and Bailey Islands and Cundy's Harbor Fire Departments represent the largest class of firefighters the departments have graduated in memory,” said Benjamin A. Wallace Jr., who serves as chief of both departments.
The new graduates are:
David Allison, 52, of Orr’s Island. The Santa Barbara, Calif., native, has lived in Harpswell for about four years and joined OBIFD last year.
Jon Petkers, 42, of Orr’s Island, an outpatient physical therapist for Mid Coast Hospital. A Lewiston native, he has lived in town for about a year and half with his wife, Stephanie, who is a new member of the OBIFD Board of Directors.
Sven Pulsifer, 28, of Cundy’s Harbor, a self-employed climbing arborist. A Cundy’s Harbor native and son of a veteran CHFD member, the UMaine graduate is married to Mellissa Pulsifer, a certified professional midwife.
Sean Ruel, 29, of Bethel Point, an arborist who recently started his own company, Thrive Tree Care. A resident for two years, he joined CHFD last year.
Zachary Stoler, 22, of Orr’s Island, a fire alarm electrician. Born in Massachusetts, he joined OBIFD early last year, soon after moving to town from Florida.
Peter Vincent, 60, of Cundy’s Harbor. The retired Bolton, Mass., native moved to town two years ago with his wife Susan, daughter Morgan, a junior at the University of New Hampshire, and their two dogs.
Each of the new firefighters said they came to the fire departments in different ways – one saw a road sign and decided to volunteer, one followed in the footsteps of his father, a couple of others were inspired by friends who were department members – but all said they decided to answer the call to help contribute to their community.
“I made this decision based on the need in our community and my opportunity to give back to a place I am very much in love with,” said Allison, who was inspired to join by his friend, OBIFD Assistant Chief Phil Taylor.
“I hopefully can make a difference in somebody's life,” Allison said.
“The best part of being on the CHFD is helping out my friends who have been volunteers for decades and deserve every bit of assistance they get. Also, there's a sense of legacy that comes with volunteering,” added Pulsifer, whose father also served in the department.
“Volunteering means staying fit and active, occasionally getting out of your comfort zone to help neighbors in need, and meeting new folks while becoming an active team member,” Pulsifer said. “There is also the financial reality of Harpswell's three non-profit departments. Do you want a higher mill rate? Many hands keep lower taxes.”
There’s also personal satisfaction in the accomplishment of becoming a firefighter.
“ I can now safely and legally go into a burning building with a team to attack a fire, which is awesome,” Pulsifer said.
Wallace, the long-time Cundy's Harbor chief who took on the same role at OBIFD this year, said the new firefighters give the town’s emergency services a needed boost, but staffing at those two departments and Harpswell Neck Fire and Rescue remains critically low and new volunteers are still urgently needed.
“We are excited about their future serving the community,” Wallace said, “but as our most experienced personnel approach retirement age we are also in need of many new volunteers to train to become firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians."
Volunteers can serve in a variety of capacities. The biggest commitment and most extensive training is needed to become a trained Emergency Medical Technician or a structural firefighter. But there are many less-demanding roles which no not require as much training, such as exterior firefighters, ambulance and fire truck drivers, pump operators and ground support personnel, in addition to people to help keep the trucks and other equipment operational, clean the stations, stock supplies, keep up with paper work and volunteer for a variety of public events.
“This is a great way to give back to the community,” said Vincent, one of the new firefighters. “You get to meet and work with amazing and inspiring people.”
The Cundy's Harbor Volunteer Fire Department serves all of Great Island from the Brunswick line to Stevens Corner Road on Route 24. OBIFD serves Orr's, Bailey and part of Great Island south of Stevens Corner road and east of the Ewing Narrows bridge on Mountain Road. Harpswell Neck Fire and Rescue serves all areas off of Route 123, including Mountain Road west of the Ewing Narrows bridge.
More information about the three departments, including how to join as a volunteer, is available at www.harpswellfireandrescue.org, or by leaving a message for Wallace at 207-844-8105.