KINGFIELD — Before driving ambulances in Maine, Peter Boucher used to drive an ambulance in Nenana, Alaska.

“It was smack dab in the middle of Alaska and pretty rural,” said Boucher of his former home, a town that in the 1970s had a population of about 2,000 people and served as a service station and shipping center for most of western Alaska.

Sometimes Boucher was the only rescue worker on duty when a call would come in at the fire station where he worked.

“I’d be driving the ambulance alone, see someone on the side of the road and ask them to help me drive. It was a different time and place,” said Boucher, who now lives in Kingfield.

The 61-year-old paramedic spent eight years as a firefighter and rescue worker in rural Alaska and served in the Coast Guard for another three years before moving to the Carrabassett Valley more than 20 years ago.

A former owner of Sugarloaf Rescue and an active member of Franklin Search & Rescue and the Carrabassett Valley Fire Department, Boucher was recently recognized by the state Emergency Medical Services for his contributions to emergency medical care.

The EMS merit award is given annually in recognition of continued involvement in several areas of the service over time, said Jay Bradshaw, EMS director.

He said Boucher was chosen because of his commitment as a paramedic at Sugarloaf Rescue and later as an employee of Franklin Memorial Hospital’s NorthStar Emergency Medical Services.

“Peter has a real enthusiasm as well as expertise in rural medicine,” said Bradshaw.

Boucher said he became an EMT because fighting forest fires, a job he had fallen in love with while studying forestry at the University of New Hampshire, didn’t provide year-round work.

“You can’t fight forest fires in Alaska in the winter,” said Boucher, who joined the Alaskan Fire Service after college and trained to be an emergency medical technician in 1977.

The training provided good background for him to get a full-time job at a firehouse in Nenana, where he was a rescue worker and firefighter.

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which stretched hundreds of miles and provided access to large reserves of petroleum, was also completed in 1977. Boucher said the economic boom that the pipeline brought to the state helped him to get a state grant to complete paramedic training in Los Angeles.

“I went from rural Alaska to downtown Los Angeles. It was pretty crazy,” said Boucher, who returned to Nenana after six months and eventually became the fire chief there.

While in Alaska, Boucher said he was allowed to take an Air Force course on arctic survival even though he was not a member of the military. He said he learned how to build a fire without matches and create improvisational housing, skills that he used as a rescue worker and also taught to the community.

He also served in the Coast Guard for three years at Kodiak Island in Alaska.

Then in 1987 Boucher’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, and he decided to move back to the East Coast. He is originally from Nashua, N.H.

“Maine is about as close to Alaska as you can get. It’s rural and there’s lots of hunting, fishing and outdoors stuff, which is what I like to do,” he said.

Becky Morin, who along with her husband Ron Morin, was an owner of the former Sugarloaf Rescue, said Boucher was a natural addition to their team.

“We have wilderness areas here in Maine, and he brought those skills,” she said. Boucher worked for the Morins for six years before buying the ambulance service. After three years Boucher decided to sell the service to Franklin Memorial Hospital in 1996. Sugarloaf Rescue became one of five that eventually consolidated under the hospital to form NorthStar, a rescue service available to about 25 communities and other unorganized territories in Franklin, Oxford and Somerset counties.

Morin retired from NorthStar last June, but said she continues to work with Boucher and his wife Stephanie. All three are emergency responders for the Carrabassett Valley Fire Department. Morin said she also volunteers with Boucher at Franklin Search & Rescue.

“He’s a good team member and doesn’t try to be some big hero. He’s dependable, always there backing you up,” she said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
[email protected]

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