Training to be a firefighter requires commitment. At the Maine Fire Service Institute (MFSI), leaders also understand that the right training equipment, along with local support, is also needed. As Jim Graves relates, “They say it takes a village to raise a child. In Maine, it takes a state to train a firefighter.”
Graves, the Director of Fire Training at MFSI, knows the critical value of having fire chiefs throughout the state support the goal of MFSI. “These valued fire chiefs are helping advance our mission of training while we help them get their personnel prepared to serve their local communities,” says Graves, a certified firefighter with more than 30 years experience.
Located in Brunswick, Maine, MFSI is dedicated to the quality of education firefighters receive. To that end, MFSI is the State Certification Agency for Maine. MFSI tests both didactic and psychomotor skills, and issues Pro-Board Certifications in a variety of areas.
Live Fire Training
When it comes to live fire training and skill exams to meet the job performance requirements of NFPA 1001, Graves and his team often use the Assistant Fire Chief model training towers from Fire Facilities Inc. that are located in Farmington and Yarmouth, Maine. “We find the Assistant Fire Chief model very efficient in conducting these drills,” says Graves. “It provides as much real life experience as can be created in a controlled setting.”
The Assistant Fire Chief from Fire Facilities features a fire training tower, residential section, and burn room annex. The residential section and annex each offer a burn room for multiple training scenarios. The four-story tower and residential section provide many opportunities for a variety of training exercises including laddering, rappelling, roof penetration, and high-angle rescue operations.
Maximizing Training Structure
In Yarmouth, Chief Michael S. Robitaille has been in command since 2012. The addition of the Assistant Fire Chief tower in 2020 deeply enhanced the training capabilities for his firefighters.
“We train about 500 people a year on the Assistant Fire Chief,” says Robitaille, a firefighter since 1983. “The unit is active about 1,600 hours annually. This was the second training model of its type in the state of Maine. We’re continually maximizing its use and sharing the facility with others.”
To date, the facility in Yarmouth has been used for FBI entry training and various K-9 accelerant training. The Assistant Fire Chief is a shared unit run by the non-profit Coastal Mutual Aid Training Association, which consists of 11 towns. The training tower is used by another 15 communities that pay for time to train.
“This training facility fulfills our needs in a multitude of ways,” says Robitaille. “The burn room on the first floor has already had nearly 100 burn evolutions. The second floor burn room has had about 25 burn evolutions.
“We are able to conduct better fire behavior burns in this unit by monitoring the temperatures and providing better instructional opportunities in larger rooms. The second floor allows us to attack with a standpipe.”
In Farmington, Fire Chief Terry Bell also appreciates the versatility and dependability of the Assistant Fire Chief training tower. “The burn rooms work well and we use the training unit about once a week,” says Bell, who has served as chief for 21 years. “The support from Fire Facilities and a variety of different organizations has been great since this process began.”
Convenience is one of the benefits Bell associates with having the Assistant Fire Chief in Farmington. “The unit is right here, so we don’t have to travel for training,” says Bell. “The facility is available to any department that would like to use it. That includes law enforcement and EMS. In just six months of this year, about 150 members of various departments statewide have trained on the unit.”
Quality Training in Maine
As part of the training center’s function, MFSI uses the Yarmouth training facility regularly for tests. Farmington also hosted Firefighter I & II classes using their Assistant Fire Chief model tower.
“There are 35,385 square miles that make up the great state of Maine,” says MFSI’s Graves. “Our organization covers the entire state. The plan is to see several more fire training facilities constructed around Maine to meet increasing training demands.
“We’re very satisfied with the customer service we’ve received from Fire Facilities. The team has been great to work with. And, we’re exceptionally pleased that another Assistant Fire Chief is now under construction in Fairfield. We look forward to its completion and being able to advance our mission of offering the best quality fire training possible in our state.”