China Village Volunteer Fire Department appoints new chief

China Village VFD newly-appointed fire chief, Joel Nelson. (photo by Eric W. Austin)

by Eric W. Austin

CHINA, ME — Let me introduce you to Joel Nelson, China resident and the new fire chief for China Village Fire Department. He strikes an imposing presence on first acquaintance, standing over six-feet tall and broad-shouldered. Soft-spoken and thoughtful, Nelson told me a bit of his life in China and his plans for the China Village Volunteer Fire Department.

Nelson takes over from longtime fire chief and former state representative, Tim Theriault, who will stay on as deputy chief. Raised in Winslow, Nelson moved to China in 2016 with his wife Elana, who works as an occupational therapist. They are expecting their first child, a boy, within the next several weeks.

Nelson attended Winslow High School, graduating in 2004, before going to Kennebec Valley Community College, (KVCC), in Fairfield, and then Thomas College, in Waterville, where he completed a degree in Business Management. During the day, he works for Sheridan Construction, in Fairfield, as a project manager.

He brings a wealth of experience to the job. Aside from his background in business and project management, Nelson served with the Winslow Fire Department during high school and, since 2006, with the Albion Volunteer Fire Department, where he is currently deputy chief.

Nelson sees the volunteer fire department as an integral part of the community. He says, “We’re here in a time of need to help our neighbors and surrounding communities. Whether it’s an emergency or not, we’re here to support people and do what we can to help them.”

Nelson says there is a lot of work involved in running the department beyond just responding to emergency calls. That work includes monthly meetings, sending trucks out for annual pump testing, SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) testing, hose testing and training sessions for fire fighters. “There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes on here that people driving by don’t realize is going on,” he says.

The China Village Fire Department handles fire and emergency calls for everything north of Cross Road, while the South China Fire Department responds to calls south of that line, and Weeks Mills Fire Department covers Dirigo Road, Deer Hill Road and nearby areas.

While the China Village Fire Department has 24 members on the current roster, they are always looking for additional volunteers with the courage to fight fires and give back to their community. The squad meets every second Tuesday of the month when they discuss department business and conduct training sessions. Anyone is welcome to stop by to see what it’s all about. Prospective fire fighters will need to complete a 6 – 8 month (every other weekend) training course which, in recent years, has been offered by the fire department in Waterville. Support persons, who may not be directly involved in firefighting, but can help with fundraising for the department, or directing traffic at the scene of an accident, are also needed. Interested parties are invited to contact Nelson by phone, at 877-5911, by email at, or through their Facebook page.


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