HERMON – When the fire bell rings in Hermon, two live-in fire students are often the first to respond.
Devin Plant and Kevin Boudreau are live-in student firefighters, both have fathers who were firefighters, and both are students at Eastern Maine Community College (EMCC).
They also both go on medical calls, drive the fire trucks, run into burning buildings, and do everything a full time Hermon firefighter does.
The Hermon Fire Department has had this program for nearly ten years. They were one of the charter departments to host students as part of the EMCC program.
“I’ve learned a lot here,” said Devin Plant. “Like dedication, community service, respect, tons of different things about the fire service.”
“The important thing is they get not just the book skills, but the hands on skills,” said Hermon firefighter and EMT Mike Simmons. “They’re going out on calls with us, they’re meeting the public.”
Simmons oversees the students, the only two in the department at the station overnight.
“Sometimes these guys are the first two to respond, as the rest of the call guys come back to the station, get their equipment,” said Simmons. “So these are kind of the face of the Hermon Fire Department after hours.”
Neighboring departments have similar programs. They all choose their live-in students through a draft process. Each department runs it slightly different, like Hermon allows their students to drive the fire trucks.
“I love interacting with the public and making sure that they know we’re here when they need us,” said Plant.
Currently, Boudreau and Plant are Fire Science students at EMCC. Boudreau said one of the most important things he’s learned while taking five classes at a time – is managing his time.
“When it comes to having all that homework to do, and all that studying to do, plus having to do truck checks, plus chores, plus going on calls,” said Boudreau, “you can’t really put off doing your project until the last day.”
When fire departments around the area are having staffing problems, the hands-on experience is preparing the next generation of firefighters.
Simmons said past live-in students in Hermon have gone on to work in Bangor. Others become dispatchers or work for private ambulance companies.
Ultimately, Plant, from St. Albans, and Boudreau, originally from Massachusetts, said they’ve found a second family living at the fire house.
“I’m four hours away from home,” said Boudreau, “so it’s tough sometimes, but to be able to have these guys to come to whether it be just someone to talk to, or you know, just to have fun, it’s really great to have this family.”
The live in program lasts for two years, but the students do have the option to stay on a third if want to pursue EMS.