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THUMBS UP to the Monmouth Fire Department, which is bucking a statewide trend by boasting a strong roster of volunteer firefighters, providing hope that the problem can be solved elsewhere too.

While many rural departments are struggling to attract volunteers, Monmouth has 55 firefighters, at least 30 of whom actively answer calls and attend regular meetings.

Most departments in central, western and northern Maine are more like China Village, with has a roster of 22 volunteer firefighters, but only 13 on active duty.

About 95 percent of Maine fire departments are made up entirely or mostly of volunteers (who are paid but are not full-time employees), so the lack of volunteers is a serious safety concern.

Two bills in front of the Legislature, L.D. 164 and L.D. 500, address this issue by setting up local financial incentives for volunteering.

A commission that includes China Village Fire Chief Tim Theriault, who is also a state representative, has also forwarded to legislators a list of separate recommendations, including state tax credits, student loan forgiveness, and health insurance coverage.

Financial incentives may not be enough. More people than in the past work outside the town they live in, making it difficult to respond to fires. People have less free time to commit to firefighting, as well.

In Monmouth, a popular junior program has raised interest in the department. There also appears to be strong leadership in Monmouth, and a strong connection between the department and the community, both of which make the volunteers want to be a part of the department.

It’s hard to say whether that is applicable everywhere, or if the forces that have caused the decline in volunteering are too much to overcome.

But it is an issue that needs to be addressed, and options like those above, as well as further regionalization, must be considered.

THUMBS DOWN to the pediatricians and family doctors who are not doing enough to promote the HPV vaccine to preteen patients and their parents.

According to a survey of 582 doctors published in the journal Pediatrics, the vaccine is too often not recommended strongly enough to patients age 11 or 12, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say kids should receive it.

The vaccine protects against the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause several kinds of cancer.

The vaccine has become a politically charged issue, as some believe — ridiculously and unsupported by research — that providing the vaccine to preteens and teens encourages sexual activity.

Timing is critical, however. The vaccine prevents 90 percent of cervical cancers, but it works best when given to preteens so their immunity has time to grow.

Unfortunately, the CDC reports that only 60 percent of girls and 42 percent of boys ages 13-17 have had the first of three HPV vaccine shots.

About 23,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with a cancer caused by HPV, all of which could have been easily prevented with a series of shots.

Physicians have played a key role in rebutting the false claims against other vaccines, and they need to do the same here.