By Ed Pierce
As a firefighter, Captain Alfred Carter never knows what the Windham Fire Department will encounter on each call they respond to, but he proceeds to each situation with the same level of commitment, dedication, and service that the public relies on.
Carter is a Call Company Captain overseeing calls for Windham firefighters when
required. He’s also a member of the South Portland Fire Department.
“As a Captain it is my responsibility to oversee many of our calls, ranging from medical calls to building fires or vehicle extrications,” Carter said. “I direct actions on scene or assigning roles to firefighters as the scene evolves.”
He also helps the department with its budgeting process by developing a needs list based upon calls or trainings in the past.
“I also conduct and participate in department trainings,” Carter said. “I’m a certified driving instructor for fire apparatus as well as basic fire pumps instructor.”
According to Carter, the most challenging aspect of his per diem work for the town is his interactions with residents during emergency situations.
“Sometimes things don’t always work out. We cannot save everybody on every call,” he said. “Seeing families suffer bad news and also watching how it impacts my fellow firefighters can weigh heavy on me at times.”
The public sees firefighters responding to emergencies but may not be aware of how much training it requires to do the job safely and effectively.
“I don’t think people are aware of the hours of in-depth training that it takes to be a EMT/ Paramedic/Firefighter,” Carter said. “I have attended thousands of hours of hands-on and classroom time during my time with the fire department. A new firefighter is looking at 250-plus hours of training to get prepared to work for the town. That’s just to get started.”
Becoming a firefighter was a dream that came true for Carter, who grew up on Deer Isle, a small island community just off Blue Hill in Penobscot Bay. He graduated from high school on the island and then attended Southern Maine Community College.
“I applied to SMCC to obtain an associate of science degree in Fire Science,” he said. “It offers a live-in program and instead of living in a dorm building students live in a fire station and learn the job first-hand. I was selected to be a live-in student at the East Windham fire station 20 years ago and have lived in town ever since.”
Through the years, in two decades of service to the Town of Windham, Carter has experienced many memorable moments as a firefighter with some standing out prominently for him.
“In 20 years, I have had a lot of memorable moments,” Carter said. “A vehicle extrication on Pope Road many years ago sticks out in my head every time I drive by where the scene was. It was very technical, and many people had to work together to get the person to safety. The call went very well. It could have gone the other way fast.”
His family has come to accepts the risks associated with his career as a firefighter and takes pride in his service to others in the community.
“My family is very proud of me. They have been very supportive,” he said. “My wife has lent me to the department over the past 13 years she understands what it’s all about and is very supportive of me.”
He balances his career as a fulltime firefighter with the city of South Portland with his work in Windham when needed.
“My training and experiences with the town of Windham gave me an advantage in obtaining the goal of making a career in the field,” Carter said. “I will always be thankful to the residents of Windham and the membership of the fire department for all of their help in the past and in the future.”
Carter said that the best aspect of his work in firefighting is simple.
“Honestly, it’s getting to help people,” he said. “That’s the job; we never see the same thing twice so the work is ever changing. It keeps things interesting.” <