AUGUSTA (WGME) – Maine firefighters are missing out on a training opportunity at the national fire academy this year. Because the state is out of compliance with a federal ID law.
And lawmakers vowing to make a change.
Back in 2007, legislators passed a law not to comply with the federal real ID law. It means Mainers will need an alternate form of identification to fly by this time next year, however, this is already impacting the firefighting community.
Firefighters routinely train with their local departments, but once a year, about 100 of them get to attend “Maine State Weekend” at the National Fire Academy in Maryland.
Brunswick Fire Chief Ken Brilliant said this would have been the 30th year, instead it’s being cancelled. He stated “National speakers, very well organized training facility and when you go down there, it’s cutting edge.”
“It is disappointing. There are departments that plan every year to send people down to that.” Brilliant added.
Officials with the Maine Fire Service Institute said Maine is missing out because the state is out of compliance with the federal Real ID Act, a 2005 law that requires more information on state issued identification cards. Without the proper card, firefighters can’t access the academy. Passports are acceptable, but officials believe not enough have them.
At the statehouse, some legislators have concerns.
Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason said “You’re dealing with people’s very private information like social security numbers would be intertwined with your drivers’ license now.”
But those on both sides of the aisle agree it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.
Representative Andrew McLean, D-Gorham stated “We’re gonna take a look and see what specific details of legislation are and talk to experts in the field.” State Representative Andrew McLean heads the transportation committee. He expects real ID’s to come up at the end of February. Three bills have already been proposed to comply. “The reality is we can’t leave people who need to go train at the fire academy, or who need to fly on a plane, we cant leave them stranded, so we need to find a solution and very soon.” he added.
Individual firefighters can still attend six and ten day sessions at the National Fire Academy on their own throughout the year, they do hope to have a plan to host the event next year.