In the wake of challenging responses to injuries suffered by hikers on Cliff Trail, Devil’s Back and the Giant’s Stairs, fire and rescue personnel in Harpswell are working together to form a Wilderness Rescue Team.

Benjamin Wallace Jr., chief of the Cundy’s Harbor Volunteer Fire Department and the Orr’s and Bailey Islands Fire Department, suggested the formation of the rescue team, which is being put together by OBIFD Assistant Chief Sean Hall and town firefighter and paramedic Meriel Longley. Personnel from the town and all three of its independent departments are taking part in the effort.

“These are all tough locations for emergency calls, with extra manpower, equipment and planning needed to get an injured party out of there in a timely manner,” said Longley. “We’re carrying four or five patients a year off hiking trails in Harpswell.”

Longley said Harpswell Fire Administrator Mike Drake is working to identify the most direct routes for evacuating injured parties from popular hiking locations in town. During their first meeting, potential team members assessed equipment on hand — like “the Mule,” an all-terrain stretcher with one big wheel — and talked about additional equipment that might be needed. They also did a site visit to Cliff Trail.

“We’re looking for people who know these trails and who can carry amounts of weight up to 50 pounds for a mile and a half,” Longley explained. “We’re also looking into wilderness first aid techniques for a team designed to be specifically outdoors.”

A dozen participants turned out for the rescue team’s first meeting. A second session will include more discussions of wilderness rescue techniques and visits to the Devil’s Back and Giant’s Stairs.

“This is not just a summer problem for us,” Longley said. “This is definitely a four-season thing, with a special set of issues for winter weather.”

For more information or to volunteer, contact Sean Hall at

Doug Warren, of Orr’s Island, retired from a career as an editor at the Portland Press Herald, Miami Herald and Boston Globe. He serves as vice president of the Harpswell News Board of Directors.