Felicia Bell, 36, of New Sharon is the new chief of the New Sharon Fire Rescue Department, the first woman to lead the force. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

NEW SHARON — Felicia Bell has been appointed chief of the New Sharon Fire Rescue Department, the first woman named to lead the force.

Bell, 36, is believed to be the first female fire chief in Franklin County. Several longtime firefighters and chiefs in the area say they don’t remember there being another one, though there are several in the state.

The Select Board appointed her Jan. 19. She succeeds John Welch, who resigned.

Bell was deployed overseas as part of the Maine Army National Guard from 2010 to 2011. When she returned from Afghanistan, she was looking for the same comradery she experienced while serving 15 years with the National Guard.

She said she found what she was looking for in the fire service. She first served on the Livermore Falls Fire Rescue Department before moving to New Sharon. There, she quickly rose through the ranks, moving from firefighter to lieutenant to assistant chief to chief. She has served as a firefighter for eight years.

Bell is also a firefighter/EMT on the Togus Veterans Affairs Medical Center Fire Department in Augusta.

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There is a lot of training that goes into being a firefighter, she said Tuesday.

“You always have to keep learning,” she said.

At the root of her dedication to serving as a firefighter is wanting to help others.

“It has made me a better person. I learned a lot of things I wouldn’t have learned outside of the fire service,” Bell said.

Chief Felicia Bell of the New Sharon Fire Rescue Department checks her phone Tuesday at the station as she waits for a medical call to be sent by dispatchers. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

The local department, which is also an emergency first responder service, could use more firefighters to join the nine-member on-call crew, just like many of the other departments in the state.

She estimated that 75% of the calls are medical related.

“We want to start a junior firefighter program,” she said. “We are hoping to get the age requirement of 18 down to 16.”

They have all of the equipment. They need voter approval to change the age, which is in a town ordinance.

If approved, it would be a step in the right direction, she said, to hopefully attract more people to the department.


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