Fire Chief's Message
It is my pleasure and gives me great pride to present the 2022 annual report for the Westbrook Fire Department. This is the first report that this administration has had the privilege to present and will include a reflection of the many accomplishments of the men and women of the Westbrook Fire Department during 2022. It is because of the tremendous pride and dedication of the members of our department that we have been so successful and are able to provide such exceptional service to the citizens of Westbrook.
We use the term professional when describing the members of our department. This does not mean that we are made up of entirely all career or part-time staff. Merriam-Webster defines the term “professional” as “one that is characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession”. This definition describes each and every one of our employees, regardless of their job classification.
Throughout 2022, the department continued to face challenges that resulted from the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. We continually encountered virus surges, vaccination mandates, hospital bed shortages ( which at times have doubled our ambulance hospital times), supply and medication shortages and increased mental health crises. Any one of these issues can drastically impact an organization, much less all at the same time. Despite that, this organization did not falter and continued to handle emergency calls each day. We continued to work with community health experts in offering COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in addition to our normal public health and fire prevention responsibilities.
During 2022, the department responded to 4,915 emergency calls for service, this is a 285 (5.79%) increase over 2021 and 754 (18.12%) more than 2020. Based upon the current trend, our projected call volume will reach 6,500 calls within the next 5 years. Our increased call volume has resulted in a 35.9% increase in the number of times we have request mutual aid to assist with our calls. This includes both fire and EMS responses. In-turn there has been a 39.8% increase in the numbers of request for our department to assist our neighbors.
While the City has been proactive in adding additional full-time staff to our department over the last several years, we have experienced a dramatic decrease in the number of employees within our per-diem program. Where we once had a full roster of thirty (30) employees six (6) years ago, our number has fallen to approximately eleven (11) employees this year. Unfortunately, this problem is not isolated to Westbrook, but has become a system problem throughout the region. This decrease in per-diem staff has impacted our ability to consistently staff our third ambulance, resulting in the need for mutual aid when the primary ambulances are on calls.
Despite the challenges the department faced over the last year, we have had several accomplishments:
The department became an American Heart Association Training center for both CPR, Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Advanced Pediatric Life Support. Prior to this designation, we have relied on a third party to sponsor all of our CPR and advanced training courses.
With the gracious support of the City Administration and the Westbrook City Council, the department received approval to order a replacement ladder truck, 3 advanced life support ambulances, service truck and command vehicle.
Westbrook Fire became the first in the State of Maine, and third in New England, to be certified in the Blue Card Incident Command System. This is a nationally recognized curriculum for emergency incident commanders and has been listed as a potential area for improvement in two State of Maine line of duty death reports in the past 3-4 years.
The department was successful in receiving several grants to purchase a new water rescue boat and new large diameter fire hose.
2 members of the department successfully completed paramedic training and became licensed paramedics and 5 are currently enrolled in paramedic school or in the process of testing.
After serving as Fire Chief and Health Officer for 8 years Chief Turcotte decided to leave the Westbrook Fire Department. Through Chief Turcotte’s mentorship, he provided me with the tools that were necessary to step into the Fire Chief’s role and for that I am personally grateful. Chief Turcotte’s departure from the department set in motion several promotions within the agency during 2022:
Captain Gary Wagner was promoted to Assistant Fire Chief
Lieutenant Joseph Carroll was promoted to Fire Captain
Firefighter Lucas Joslin was promoted to Fire Lieutenant
In addition to the above promotions, the city was fortunate to be able to add back the position of Deputy Fire Chief of EMS to the department. This position was founded in part through ARPA funding and focuses on the Emergency Medical Services and Training for the department. We were very fortunate to be able to hire Brian Langerman for this position in February of 2022. Deputy Chief Langerman left behind a 20-year career with the Saco Fire Department. He brings with him over 30 years of experience as an EMS clinician, paramedic, and firefighter.
I would like to thank the Westbrook City Council, City Administrator Jerre Bryant, Mayor Michael Foley and the rest of the outstanding staff of the City of Westbrook for the steadfast support of our department during this demanding time. I continue to appreciate the partnerships with the men and women of the Westbrook Fire Department as we continue to work together, adapt, and change to address the growing community needs. Lastly, I would like to thank the community for their continued support of the department. We look forward to continuing to provide our community with excellent customer service for years to come.
Yours for a safer community,
Chief of Department