Many people apply to become a Maine Forest Ranger, but very few make it to the point where they can put on the badge.
“It is quite a process,” says four year Maine Forest Ranger Ben Goodwin. “You’ve got to go through a hiring process where it’s you have to pass a physical test from push-ups to sit-ups to sit and reach to a mile and a half run, and then you have to go through a board exam where you’re interviewed by five other Rangers, go through a background check where they call, they stopped by my neighbors where I lived, they called high school buddies, college buddies, then you go through a polygraph test and then you have a final interview with the Colonel, so it was probably an eight month, nine month process.”
Once a person is hired, finding out what you’ll be doing day to day in the job, Goodwin says it can be a surprise. “There’s no typical day, we could be running a fire one day working a timber theft case another day. teaching fire classes or at a school teaching fire prevention so there is no typical day we have and that is what I enjoy of the job.”
Sometimes there is confusion between the Maine Warden’s Service and the Maine Forest Service, they both work in the woods of Maine, but Goodwin says their jobs are very different. “The Warden’s take care of the wildlife out there and the way we look at it is we take care of the area where the wildlife lives. we do get confused sometimes, but that’s part of the job. and we work together with the Wardens Service on searches and if there is violations that they need help with or if we need help with, so we work good with them.”
But their primary focus is wildfires, and many times to get an accurate idea of what is going on in the area they cover they have to leave the roads and trails and take to the skies. “The way we approach fires, is it 100% out is how we do it, I know sometimes out west they’ll let fires burn, we don’t let fires burn here,with the accessibility we have here in the state of Maine, we can usually get to a fire pretty quick and work that fire,” said Goodwin. “So I think they way the equipment and the resources that we have, helps keep those fires down and I also think we’ve been lucky.”
“This is, often a lot of the wildfires Downeast are started as a legal, permitted, blueberry burn the wind takes it and gets into something else,” said Forest Ranger pilot Lincoln Mazzei.
“As the fire season ramps up here we like to get our flights done in the morning where the fire danger usually isn’t as high,” said Goodwin. “And then have the helicopters ready for any response to a fire for the afternoons as we go.”
The Rangers and the pilots aren’t just looking for smoke or fires, sometimes they are watching to see what they may encounter in a future fire. “I am looking for camps that are out in the woods out here and it gives me a good idea, what I’ll do is do a camp inspection on it,” says Goodwin. “I’ll take a picture of it, and mark it on a GPS, then when I get back to Old Town I can get that printed up so if we do have fires in here it gives me a good idea where the camps are, where we might have a problem with structures burning, what might be at that camp if there’s you know, propane tanks there, if there is fuel there, it gives me a good idea of what’s in the unit, and we can put those up on a map and it will put a dot, camp here, camp here, so as we’re working a fire I know I may have three camps over the ridge on the next fire if I’m not careful we can lose those structures.”