CAMDEN — A new first responder service provided by the Camden Fire Department has provided Emergency Medical Response training to firefighters that will increase response time to medical emergencies and save local lives.

The town has been working on training firefighters and other local residents for about two years to provide this service and is now only waiting for approval and licensing from Maine Emergency Medical Services.

The initiative was recommended as part of a 2020 study on emergency ambulance services in Camden, Rockport, Hope and Lincolnville. Consultant Kevin McGinnis performed the study working with the towns, North East Mobile Health Services, Pen Bay Medical Center and LifeFlight.

North East provides ambulance services for the four towns, but the study recommended improving response time by training local firefighters to provides emergency medical services while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

In some municipalities, such as Rockland, fire departments and ambulance services are already combined. However, Maine has many smaller towns with smaller departments including volunteer fire departments.

Camden Fire Chief Chris Farley said 67% of new licenses from Maine EMS are issued to fire departments.

The Camden Fire Department will be able to include staff from the licensed minimum level of Emergency Medical Responder to EMT Basic, EMT Advanced and the highest level, Paramedic.

Farley said the paperwork was submitted to Maine EMS in August and the department was hoping to start the first responder service in January 2023.

Through the training, about 10 people have been added to the ranks of EMTs. Most are in the Fire Department, but others including town Finance Director Jodi Hanson and two members of the Ski Patrol have also taken the training. Another class at the end of January will include two firefighters and one police officer.

Some are members of the fire department and others will be on-call to help as needed.

The Town of Camden is serving as the leader in the licensing, but the goal is to expand the program to cover Hope, Lincolnville and Rockport as well.

The town has been budgeting for the project for a few years. Town Manager Audra Caler said the training is provided for free through the Community College system. However, the town will be paying for the services and medical equipment needed.