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For Immediate Release

Date: 03/31/11

Rep. Guerin Gathers Support for EMCC's Fire Science Program

AUGUSTA - State Rep. Stacey Guerin has gathered the signatures of more than 35 legislators in support of Eastern Maine Community College in its bid to make the Fire Science Technology program part of its permanent curriculum.

Rep. Guerin (R-Glenburn) will present the signatures and the accompanying letter on Monday, April 4, to a meeting of the Training Facilities Committee of the Maine Fire Protection Services Commission, which will vote on the issue.

"My dad, Shirley Smith, was a volunteer firefighter in Kenduskeag, so I understand the importance of our volunteer fire departments," said Rep. Guerin, a first-term legislator. "It is critical to eastern, central and northern Maine that we have a program here that supplies interns and professional firefighters to our communities. I have obtained the signatures of legislators from both parties, including the Speaker of the House, to make it clear that the Legislature supports EMCC's effort to transform its Fire Science program into a full-time major."

Eastern Maine Community College (EMCC), in Bangor, currently offers the Fire Science program as a satellite branch in partnership with Southern Maine Community College (SMCC), in South Portland. The Bangor campus provides classroom space and the general education courses while SMCC offers the actual Fire Science courses. Under the current setup, SMCC controls the curriculum, leaving EMCC no academic authority over the program. Over the past 20 years, the program has placed many students into paid firefighting positions and also into volunteer fire stations. It has 18 students enrolled at present.

In late February, EMCC President Lawrence Barrett was informed that SMCC had decided to eliminate the Fire Science coordinator position at EMCC and centralize Fire Science instruction at the South Portland school to reduce operating costs at the South Portland campus.

On March 7, the Penobscot County Fire Chiefs' Association contacted the SMCC president and expressed their desire to see EMCC establish a full-time Fire Science Technology program at the Bangor campus, asking that SMCC assist in a smooth transition. In a letter to the president, the association wrote: "We believe that given the challenges faced by SMCC, there is now an opportunity for EMCC to assume a leading role in the preparations of young men and women for a career in the fire service. The fire chiefs of Penobscot County support and encourage the transition of the Fire Science program in Bangor from SMCC to EMCC."

On March 21, SMCC President James Ortiz met with Lawrence Barrett and the Penobscot fire chief to devise a solution. At that meeting, all parties agreed that the current SMCC Fire Science program would continue next year at the EMCC campus and that EMCC would begin the academic process of taking over all aspects of the program in the fall of 2012.

The Maine Fire Protection Services Commission will vote April 4 to make the change official. ###

Jay Finegan
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445