AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - A bill aimed at recruiting and retaining firefighters in Maine sailed through committee Wednesday.
It requires the Maine Fire Protection Services Commission, which is housed within the Community College System, to establish a grant program to help fund training facility improvements.
Currently, training is limited to six regional locations- primarily in southern Maine.
Firefighters in rural Maine are forced to drive several hours to and from mandatory training sessions they need to complete in order to fight fires.
"I am a volunteer department and I can bring on a volunteer fireman tomorrow, but until he's fought a fire in one of these facilities, he is not qualified to do it at any operation. And that's true of anything we do, whether it's extricating somebody out of a vehicle or fighting a propane fire," said Winthrop's Fire Chief Dan Brooks.
The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, was unanimously supported by the legislature's Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.
It heads to the House and Senate for votes.