Category Archives: Emergency Services

A 2017 Westport Island Halloween by Candlelight

October 30’s winds take down trees and bring darkness…

The storm of October 30 downed more than 60 trees on town roads alone — not counting the state portion of the Main Road and private roads — and downed scores more throughout the island. With about ten electrical poles broken, wires on the ground and some wires stretched by broken and uprooted trees and pulled off of houses, residents woke to no power, no cable, few landlines and spotty internet.

The good news: no one was hurt, neighbors are helping neighbors and Central Maine Power (CMP) did its initial assessment of damage on Monday evening — when its crews ensured one lane was “safely” open on the Main Road at Fox Run, 200 Main Road and the Squire Tarbox Inn where trees brought down the wires and blocked the roadway — proceed with caution. The bad news, we are at the bottom of the triage list for power restoration with no critical services and a small, residential-only population. CMP states we should have substantial power restoration by the end of the weekend. Crews will come in numbers to Lincoln County today; although they are not yet scheduled for the major work needed on Westport. Time Warner/Spectrum and Fairpoint will not be able to do restoration work until CMP restores its poles and lines.

A warming center is open daily until 8:30 pm at the Westport Volunteer Fire Department (WVFD) where residents can warm up, charge their electronic devices, take a shower, get water, use the microwave and kitchen facilities and connect. The WVFD’s landline is operational: 882-6806, or you can call the Fire Chief directly with questions: 460-0367.

Thanks to private citizens and D&G Cromwell, all roads are navigable. East Shore Road is open on both sides, but is still blocked in the 200 block. Although roadways are navigable, they are not necessarily safe. Be cautious of trees on wires, wires in the roadway and hanging branches.

You may see the island’s Emergency Management Assistance personnel out and about collecting photographs of damage. Lincoln County has also asked that we collect pictures of damages to private property. If you have photographs of damage to your private residences, structures or vehicles, please send them to wagnerhiggins11@gmail.com or townclerk@westportisland.us and provide any details that you can. The County is in the process of compiling documentation of damages for the state’s request for a Disaster Declaration.

Regardless of the power situation, we will have the State election at the Town Hall on Tuesday, November 7, from 8 am to 8 pm. Today is the last day to get a regular absentee ballot. If you need one, call the Town Clerk at 380-4476 and arrangements will be made to get you a ballot. Absentee ballots are only available after today for Special Circumstances. Call the Town Clerk if you have questions.

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Another Successful Summer Barbeque

Shows “the love” for the Westport Volunteer Fire Department (WVFD)

Cloudy skies and a passing squall gave way to beautiful weather for a summer’s eve chicken barbeque on Saturday. The annual barbeque is the Westport Volunteer Fire Department’s flagship fundraiser event. In partnership with the Westport Community Association, the Fire Department hosted a great spread with entertainment from the Back to Basics Bluegrass Band. More than 200 Westport Islanders turned out to enjoy the evening and support their emergency responders.

Almost $3,000 was raised from dinner donations, a 50/50 raffle, fire department T-shirt and hat sales and the “Dunk the Chief” tank. A San Franciso firefighter renting a house on the island stopped by just to drop a donation in the fire boot, and several said it was the “best barbeque ever.” Thanks to all for making it a great evening…

Westport Island’s February Blizzard

Had both upsides and downsides…

Depending where you live on the island, tree buffering and drifting, Islanders reported from 23.5 inches to 3 feet of snow when the first blizzard of 2017 subsided on February 13. When life was back to normal, historic island landmarks — the Town Hall, the Community Church and the Baptist Church, as well as the Town Office, looked like wintry greeting card images.

fire department's caved in portable garageThe Westport Volunteer Fire Department’s hard-bottom inflatable boat just looked buried, and now it looks homeless.

The boat lost its home in February’s snow deluge. Snow accumulation caved in the boat’s portable garage. Only the frame of the garage still stands, so the boat is now exposed to the elements. Space is too limited inside the fire department bays to move the boat inside, and the plastic tarp has proven to be an inadequate solution.

There would be space inside the garage if it weren’t for “historic” Engine 1, which also needs to be inside. Engine 1 is no longer a regular, functioning member of the fire department; it is used only for parades and ceremonial events. …But, it is a sentimental favorite of many islanders, because it is the first fire truck purchased brand new for the island back in 1963.

Wanted: Covered parking for Engine 1

The fire department is seeking assistance from an island resident who might have unused space in a barn or garage to park Engine 1. The Engine is 23′ long, 7’9″ wide and 8’4″ high. If you can help the fire department by providing a temporary or ongoing shelter, please call Fire Chief Bob Mooney at 460-0367.

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A Tragic Day on the Island

Neighbors lose their home…

house on fireNone of us knows when we wake up in the morning when a day may be life altering. Today was such a day for neighbors Stan Lane and Norma Dreyfus. After an overnight with the grandchildren, a trip back home was interrupted by a page out for the Westport Volunteer Fire Department — Stan was carrying his pager as a member of the department. The pager tone was followed by a dispatcher’s voice announcing a structure fire and the address. The address was theirs.

Disbelief is an understatement. Thankfully, no one was home, so no one was hurt. But records, treasures and momentos of a life and family are gone. All the accessories of everyday living are gone — favorite clothing, favorite tools and favorite chair. Numbing.

At this point, the cause is unknown. Most days, it’s nice not to have neighbors too close; other times, it’s not. The first calls to 911 came around 2:15 p.m. after the fire was visible above the trees to those driving onto the island. The winds off the water on this balmy day fed the fire. Westport Volunteer Fire Department and mutual aid partners Wiscasset, Edgecomb, Alna, Dresden, Boothbay, Newcastle and Woolwich provided firefighters, hours of labor, and tanks with 2,000 gallons of water to help contain the fire. Unfortunately, the house was a total loss.

Tonight, take stock of your blessings and say a prayer for Norma and Stanley.

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Not a Good Night for a Swim on Westport Island

An outing for the Westport Volunteer Fire Department rescue boat

Westport Volunteer Fire rescue boat finds man in the waterWhat began around noon as a startling Main Road encounter for a Westport Island woman became a call to the Sheriff’s Department and the Westport Fire Department regarding “a man in his 20’s engaged in suspicious activity in the vicinity of the Squire Tarbox Inn.” Both agencies joined in a search for the man who fled into the woods when he sighted Westport Volunteer Fire Department Deputy Chief Jason Abbott.

When the Sheriff’s Department brought a search dog into the area, they released fire department volunteers who had set up an initial search perimeter. Soon after, the canine unit tracked their man to Chase Drive. Rather than engage in friendly conversation, the man jumped into chilly Heal Cove to swim to chillier water. Sheriff’s officers then called for the Westport Fire Department’s rescue boat.

Jason Abbott donned the cold water rescue suit while fellow firefighters got the rescue boat into the water and directed Wiscasset Ambulance into the scene to ready for a hypothermia run. Although the swimmer was resistant to being rescued — despite an outside temperature of about 33 degrees and water temperature of about 43 degrees — he was ultimately persuaded. Thanks to the Sheriff’s Department, Westport Volunteer Fire Department, and Wiscasset Ambulance, the situation ended before complete nightfall, and Westport Islanders can sleep comfortably tonight.

Tonight was Westport Volunteer Fire Department’s first major incident since Jason Abbott was appointed Deputy Chief and Stacey Hutchison was appointed Captain. And, it was newcomer, Libby Fairfield’s first call — with support team Roger Quandt, James Richardson, Earl Grant, Stan Lane, and Roger Higgins. Great job all!

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Westport Volunteer Fire Department Snuffs Chimney Fire

What should have been just another Wednesday night meeting for the Westport Volunteer Fire Department ended up being a full dress exercise. A chimney fire at 325 Main Road interrupted the supper hour and kept firefighters busy for an hour or two on a wintery cold evening.

Volunteer firefighters Jason Abbott and Stacey Hutchison got to put their Basic Firefighter training to good use. They are both currently enrolled in training that will last until June for two nights and one weekend day each week to complete state certification coursework. The training is a huge after-hours commitment that they put to good use today. They were the point men up on the roof to extinguish a chimney fire that was limited to smoke and minor property damage. No one was hurt.

Thank you to a great turnout from the Westport Volunteer Fire Department and to Wiscasset Fire Department for mutual aid assistance with a second tanker truck.

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Westport Island: Looking Back at Hurricane Sandy

Some lost power for 20 minutes here…an hour there…and others were without power for the better part of two days. A minor inconvenience compared to the devastation suffered by some neighbors in coastal New York and New Jersey.

Now, it’s time to be thankful for our electrical power and to say thank you to: those members of the Fire Department who spent the heart of Tuesday night cutting downed trees off utility wires and roads; Earl Grant for spending all night trying to keep roads cleared and safely marked; and Central Maine Power (CMP) and their assisting power crews for efforts to get our power back on.

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After the Rain: An Update

East Shore Road is now passable and has been reopened. Sortwell and Junction Roads have been repaired. MDOT responded to view the beaver encampment on the Main Road; they cleared the culvert debris. The waters have receded, and with the exception of gutter erosion on West Shore Road, Baker Road, and some other gravel roadways, life is back to normal.

Some finish work on the roads — culverts, grading, and paving await (budgetary discussion)…

A representative from the state emergency management office will be viewing the damaged areas with town officials later this month.

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It’s a Rainy Day in the Neighborhood

Westport Volunteer Fire Fighters, Road Commissioner Garry Cromwell and crew, Selectmen, and emergency management officers have been out and about today marking, monitoring, and documenting water damage to the roads. East Shore Road has sustained the worst damage.

Following are the areas where caution and good sense are needed:

East Shore Road, which is closed between Gary Webber’s Hill and Log Cabin Road;
Willis Point Road;
Junction Road;
Doggett Road;
Main Road by the beaver encampment adjacent to Oak Run Road;
Baker Road; and
Sortwell Road

If you have additional road or storm damage to report, call 911 — or if you have damage to document, email: wagnerhiggins11@gmail.com

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Westport Island and Rising Tides

Or, people who live on an island shouldn’t ignore rising waters…

 
If you stand on the shoreline of Westport, you’ll be standing 7 to 8.5 inches closer to the water than you would have been 100 years ago. If you’re standing at the water’s edge, your feet will likely be under water in years to come.

beagle viewing McCarty Cove waters

Investigating the rising tide

According to the Maine Geological Survey, the state’s average sea level increase in the last 100 years has been 8 to 8.5 inches – in Portland, ME (where there has been a tide gauge since 1912) there has been “only” a 7.3 inch increase. Maine scientists predict that the sea level will increase 2 feet over the next hundred years, which most scientists agree is a middle-of-the-road projection based on the current incremental height increases in coastal tides.

To illustrate the potential impact of a rising water level, nature sends an occasional storm our way with “super-sized” storm surges. The Patriot’s Day Storm in 2007 measured a 2.5 foot storm surge in Portland, and the “100-year” storm of 1978 measured a 4.2 foot storm surge in Portland.

Roger, as Director of Westport Island Emergency Management Assistance (EMA), has been appointed to Lincoln County’s Sea Level Rise – Coastal Hazards Project. This project will be using an aerial topographic-survey map done last year using “LIDAR” technology (Light Detection and Ranging, a laser measurement device). LIDAR maps are accurate within 6 inches and include layering details, such as infrastructure and buildings that will allow modeling of the impact of 2-, 3-, and 6-foot storm surges — kind of a create your own disaster movie, so you can figure out how to outsmart a super-sized tidal surge.

Information gleaned from this project will help Lincoln County towns plan and prepare for “the storms of today, and the tides of tomorrow.” According to Robert Faunce, Lincoln County Planner, vulnerable areas in Westport include: low-lying coastal roads, causeways, and shore land structures.

Data from the Sea Level Rise Project will help to target areas that can be “hardened” against future damage or destruction. Target hardening strategies for higher tide levels might include: expanding road culverts; raising roads; relocating water treatment and purification equipment; installing breakwaters; and revising planning ordinances for new structures. Additionally, as of November 2011, Westport residents can now purchase federally-backed flood insurance to protect their homes.

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For more information, see the Lincoln County Sea Level Rise — Coastal Hazard Study.