FARMINGTON – Olivia Belbute recently completed her first year at the University of Maine at Farmington and she has worked on the Farmington Fire Department for about six months, since the end of her first semester.
Belbute, who grew up in Bedford, Massachusetts, had lived in Massachusetts for the entirety of her life. Despite this, she decided to come north to Maine for college: specifically Farmington. Belbute’s mother transferred to UMF and loved the university and the town. As she raised her daughter, she instilled this love in her daughter.
“I feel like Farmington is very accepting of college students,” Belbute said.
Belbute is a Special Education major with a minor in Rehabilitation Services. She is a part of a 4+1 Accelerated Special Education Masters Degree Program.
Belbute has been intrigued by firefighting for years. Ever since she was young, she dreamed of working in a fire department. Once she got to UMF, she learned that there were other students that were living on campus and working on the FFD. Once she looked into it, she found out that they were looking to fill an on-call position. She immediately applied without a second thought and, to her surprise, she got the position. She thought it would be a great way to be active in this community and make some connections in a new town.
Belbute shared how welcoming she found the fire department. Former Chief and current Captain Terry Bell helped Belbute once she submitted her application. He kept her updated on her application status and her interview. According to Belbute, once she was hired, everyone was quick to welcome her and introduce her to the inner workings of the fire department. Lieutenant Joe Hastings was assigned as Belbute’s training officer, helping with her initial training.
In the part of Massachusetts that Belbute hails from, she would never have gotten the opportunity to join a fire department. Down there, according to Belbute, most departments are fully staffed with full-time employees.
Belbute’s role at the fire department is a basic one, as she is new to fire-fighting. She has a pager that alerts her to fire calls and during certain ones she responds to the fire station. She is not able to answer all of them, due to her probationary status. Belbute assists during these fire calls, doing whatever her superiors need of her. For instance, while the department responds to car accidents, Belbute will cover traffic control. Once Belbute’s training is completed, she will be able to take more of a hands-on role.
On top of being a full-time college student and an on-call fire-fighter, during the spring semester Belbute also worked a campus job, took an Emergency Medical Training basic course and started a third job as a Behavior Health Professional with MAS Home Care of Maine.
Her campus job is in the Assistive Technology Lab, which is in the Education Center. The lab provides devices that can help people with disabilities to the Farmington community and UMF students. Belbute fills her schedule with jobs and activities that center around helping people in many different ways. Helping people, even strangers, is important to her. One of the most rewarding aspects of her job in the fire department is “being there for people at some of their worst times.”
The fact that she is only one of two women in the department might be intimidating to some people, but it did not stop Belbute from pursuing fire-fighting, and it paid off. She reports that she has felt very welcomed by the FFD.
“It almost instantly became a family to me,” Belbute said. “I know it’s a safe place I can go at any point.” The fire-fighters check in on her, make sure school is going well and ask about her grades. They even helped her with car trouble.
“When I was having an issue with my car and did not know what was wrong and needed guidance, one of the guys at the fire department offered to quickly look at it and helped me figure out what the problem was.”
The fire department has helped Belbute to realize how many opportunities await her once she graduates. It has become an important aspect of her life here in Farmington; she plans to continue to be a part of it.