NGFR in the time of Covid-19: An interview with the chief

|Penny Hilton|

There may be one “silver lining” to the current virtual shut-down of normal life, according to New Gloucester Fire Chief and Emergency Management Officer, Toby Martin: auto accidents are way down.

That’s good, because the chief and his staff have plenty to do.  Because the Covid-19 virus is now community spread, says Martin, safety response is taking place on multiple tiers. Martin says he participates in conference calls with Maine EMS (Emergency Management Services), regional divisions of safety (Tri-County ad Cumberland County), and the state every week. “Our response is policy driven,” says the chief, noting he works closely with New Gloucester’s interim town manager, Paul First, and the town’s health officer, Deb Parks. [As an aside, the degree to which activity by a health officer is rare in this town may be indicated by no listing of such an officer or department on the town’s web site.]

While calls are down, precautions are up. EMS staff now responds to every call wearing the appropriate extra PPE’s (Personal Protection Equipment.) New Gloucester has enough of the N95 masks, but Chief Martin says his staff does not currently have enough of the standard surgical masks. Cumberland County EMS is coordinating weekly updates of supplies and the status of state-wide PPE distribution.

As for staffing, Chief Martin says “we are doing the best with what we have.” The two live-in student trainees from SMCC have both opted to stay on duty in New Gloucester. None of the on-call firefighters and EMTs who left the department over the winter are back on the roster.

Regarding the first Covid-19 case in New Gloucester announced April 3rd, Chief Martin says that he can give out no details except to say “it is a severe case.”

“We are not at the peak yet – we are about two and a half weeks behind New York.” He reiterates the governor’s plea – (and order) – for people to stay home, and to wear “facial protection” when going to the grocery store, and for everyone to “help each other to help others.”

“We are all in this together.”