HOPE — You can add two names to the roster of Hope volunteer firefighters who leave home, hearth and work and risk their lives to help neighbors — a high school senior and a mother of toddlers.

Noah Rousseau and Sarah Doudera showed up on Sunday afternoon Nov. 6 to the town’s Recruitment Open House at the fire station on Camden Road to fill out applications.

With the number of folks going onto the fire service in Maine seriously declining, Chief Clarence Keller was delighted with the results. The addition of two rookies translates into a 10 percent boost in firefighting personal for the town — and doubling the number of women firefighters.

“Both candidates decided to get things going and that’s a plus,” Keller said, adding, “You never know how these things will turn out in terms of numbers, but anything positive is a move forward.”

In addition to trying to buck a dwindling interest in the fire service in general, the all-volunteer Hope department has its share of older firefighters among its 20 members, something of concern to Keller, himself 57 and a 34-year veteran of the Hope department.

The  recruiting event was an effort to attract young, strong candidates who can stand up to the rugged and dangerous work and rise in the ranks as older personnel transition out of active service, according to Keller.

Rousseau, 18, and Doudera, 33, appear to fit the bill.

Sarah Doudera, a mother of two toddlers, will soon be a firefighter in Hope. Photo by Jack M. Foley

“Our local fire station is completely volunteer-run, but people expect when they make a call for help for someone to show up,” Doudera said. “It takes regular people like me stepping up to learn more and getting involved for help to be available to members of our community in times of need.”

While she has never been a firefighter, she previously worked in the yachting industry, holds a U.S. Coast Guard-issued Captain’s license for 100-ton vessels and has taken courses in fighting shipboard fires.

She is no stranger to folks in uniform and the rigors involved in public service. Her father is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, who after the military became an operating room nurse, and other family members have worked as EMTs, she said.

Doudera graduated recently from the University of Maine with a master’s in marine science and works seasonally in kelp aquaculture. Currently a stay-at-home mom, she and her husband, Matt, have two little boys, Atlas, 2, and Leland, 1.

She saw the notice of the Hope recruiting event on Facebook and decided it fit one of her personal goals. “I’m looking to connect with members from my home town on a more personal level. Other than the general store, which we frequent often, there aren’t very many outlets to directly engage with our fellow community members,” she said.

Rousseau is still in high school. He fondly remembers watching big fire rigs speed away on calls from the fire station across from his grandmother’s home when he was younger.

His application was met with particular delight by the department because he is a step ahead of most raw recruits when it comes to the on-going training they need, typically over about a two-year period.

A senior at Mid-Coast School of Technology, Rousseau is studying firefighting and outdoor leadership. He has had to take the Firefighter I and Firefighter II classes, the same classes required of the department’s recruits.

“That is a huge plus,” Keller said.

Rousseau is the second recent addition from the school, according to Keller. The other is Rousseau’s classmate and friend, Taber Twitchell. Rousseau credited him with encouraging his already keen interest in joining the department.

“I have always thought firefighting was interesting and I remember years ago when they actually built the Hope fire station,” Rousseau said.

Twitchell was at the fire station on Sunday to greet his friend when he arrived, as were about a dozen other firefighters.

Recruit Noah Rousseau, seated, watches as Hope Fire Chief Clarence Keller helps with application for the volunteer fire department. Photo by Jack M Foley

Rousseau said his family is on board with his decision. “My family feels excited; they have known me long enough to know I have always enjoyed fire trucks and pumps and ladders. And I am getting to pursue something I am interested in and helping people in the community,” he said.

Even though both applicants must pass background tests and get an official vote of approval from the rank and file, Rousseau was encouraged by something Chief Keller told him on that score.

“He said in his 34 years of being with the Hope Fire Department, there were only two candidates they had to say no to, so I feel pretty good,” Rousseau said.