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New fire brigade prepares to help neighbors

Members of the newly formed Club 17 Brigade trained, Sunday, March 19, with the Van Buren Fire Department regulars at Van Buren Cove on Long Lake. (Contributed photo)

Members of the newly formed Club 17 Brigade trained, Sunday, March 19, with the Van Buren Fire Department regulars at Van Buren Cove on Long Lake. (Contributed photo)

VAN BUREN, Maine — Following acquisition of equipment this fall, Van Buren Fire Department’s newest brigade took part in department training, Sunday, March 19.

In December, selectmen agreed to to place a group of camp owners and homeowners in the Van Buren Cove area of Long Lake under the same liability coverage as the town’s fire department personnel, in an effort to help strengthen the community’s ability to safely respond to remote fires.

The new group, Club 17 Brigade, trained with department personnel Sunday on how to gain access to water from the lake, including drilling holes in winter ice, using portable pumps and on using hand lines.

Brigade members, who are trained as “defensive only” firefighters, learned how to quickly get water flowing and how to apply it to a burning building, while making sure nearby structures are protected.

The fire department, with help from Aroostook County Emergency Management Agency and donations from other departments, acquired fire-fighting apparatus to be stored in the area, which is more than 10 miles out of town and accessible only by gravel roads. More than 100 year-round and seasonal residents live in Van Buren Cove, along the shore of Long Lake.

According to Fire Chief Brian Caron the new brigade includes 15 residents from both sides of the cove. Members of the new group have received training to become exterior firefighters, which will be a benefit to homeowners in the area.

Van Buren Fire’s Captain Pete Madore was a key advocate of creating the new unit.

“There’s nothing that guarantees you’ll save everything,” Madore said Monday. “The equipment and training are to enhance what we had, to give us a better chance to contain fires,” before additional resources from town arrive, he said.

Madore said the equipment now cached at the cove includes a high pressure pump, hoses and nozzles, an ice auger, and various tools. Each brigade member has also been issued a portable 2-way radio.

The equipment is stored on a trailer and kept inside a shed on the west side of the cove. The Maine Forest Service still maintains its own cache of wildland fire-fighting equipment on the east side, and has moved its equipment to the new Van Buren Fire shed on the west side.

Madore said that a siren on the shed can be activated in case of a fire, so that brigade members and neighbors will know there is an emergency. There is cell phone service in the area, he said, and residents should still also call 9-1-1 or another emergency response agency to report a fire.

In addition to helping at the cove, members of Brigade 17 are also able to respond to any fire that the Van Buren department responds to in other parts of town. Even though they are not trained to attack fires inside of a burning structure, Madore said the brigade members are a valuable asset on any fire in town.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Madore.

Madore said the idea of integrating a residents-based unit was an “out of the box” idea.” “It’s something that hadn’t been done before,” he said.

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