New equipment will boost readiness for Mars Hill firefighters

1 year ago

MARS HILL, Maine — Some much-needed equipment is on the way to help the Mars Hill Fire Department keep their gear ready to respond when needed.

Three structure fires around Mars Hill this month have highlighted the need for the department to have a better way to maintain fire hoses and protective clothing.

The Mars Hill Town Council approved on Monday night the purchase of a new gear washer and dryer for the fire department using about $20,000 of the town’s American Rescue Plan Action funds. Previous grant applications for the maintenance appliances have been refused, but because winter usually leads to more home heating fires the department wants to be better prepared.

Personnel dry out their fire hoses now by putting them on a homemade rack that only fits 10 joints of hose. It takes around a week or more for them to air dry. 

Mars Hill Fire Chief Gerald Cousins has applied twice to the Stephen King Foundation to acquire the funds needed for the gear washers, but was denied both times.

“We’ve got people with wet gear going into burning buildings, and you can get steam burned if it’s too hot in there,” Cousins said.

The gear washer can wash two or three fire jackets and pants, by Cousin’s estimates. A wash cycle would take 15 to 20 minutes and the load would take four to five hours to dry. The drying unit comes with four racks and will dry a fire hose in roughly 24 hours.

MARS HILL, Maine — December 19, 2022 — The Mars Hill Town Council from left town council members Frank Sam Mahan Jr., Darrell Wilson, vice chairperson Mike Stitham, chairperson Trent Lundeen, town manager Kelly A. Garrison, and town council member Donna McClung go over the agenda for the town council meeting on Monday, Dec. 19. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)

Since the beginning of December, fires have occurred at 71 Robinson Rd., 5 Church St. and a condemned building at 20 Silver St., Cousins said.

“Hopefully it slows down, but I am afraid it’s going to be a rough winter with the price of fuel oil,” Cousins said. “We’re going to see some things we’ve never seen before like with people trying to heat their houses.”

It will take six to eight weeks for the cleaning machines to arrive at the Mars Hill Fire Department.

In other business, the town council voted to claim two parcels of land at Lot 5 and Lot 6 on the East Ridge Road that the town had tax acquired.

“This is the piece of property on the East Ridge Road where everybody said, ‘We should put it out,’” Town Manager Kelly A. Garrison said. “We’ve already talked about it. We got a full offer of what [the town council] wanted and this is the quitclaim deed for you guys to sign and then the check will come.”

Councilors approved new contracts for the dispatch service of the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office of around $3,300 from January through December 2023, and also approved $500 Christmas bonuses for full-time employees at the Mars Hill Highway and Recreation departments.

The Mars Hill town office will be closed on Dec. 26 and Jan. 2. The next meeting will be at 4 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 23.