Firefighters in one Maryland community are warning that proposed changes could put lives at risk.
Officials in Prince George’s County are considering a shift in how they man some fire stations.
“Every minute counts in this department, and somebody’s life could be on the line and you don’t want to delay service,” Branchville Fire Department Chief R. Leizear said.
Volunteer firefighters called a press conference Thursday because they are worried that changes in firefighter staffing may impact their firehouse and other houses in the county.
“They just need more people, and you can’t take them from one just to put them somewhere else,” Leizear said.
At the Branchville Fire Department, there are 75-90 volunteers, but they have 9-to-5 jobs or attend school during the day, leaving career firefighters to man the station.
“Just recently we spoke with Deputy Fire Chief Benjamin Barksdale,” Branchville Fire Department President J. Crisman said. “He explained to us that the career staffing would be removed from Station 11 during the daytime operations.”
That would leave the Branchville station empty during the day unless they could find the volunteers to fill in. Four other county stations could see similar changes.
“One day you might have a crew; the next day it will be bone dry,” Crisman said. “There will be no one here.”
“We have identified an area where other nearby stations can cover that particular area and still meet that standard response time,” said Mark Brady, of Prince George’s County Fire and EMS.
In an effort to balance the county’s budget while meeting new contractual obligations with the career firefighters union, the chief is considering moving around some career firefighters. The union wants every engine to have a four-man crew. As it stands, most Prince George’s fire engines are operated by two firefighters.
“There is a very strong possibility that Fire and EMS stations throughout Prince George’s County, some will lose their career staffing, but we’re doing it strategically,” Brady said.
No final decisions have been made about the changes, and county officials said they won’t put the public’s safety in danger, but some volunteer firefighters are skeptical.
“There will be no one here, and that will be the day that something drastic has to happen for this county to say, Alright, we need their career staffing back,” Crisman said.
A Prince George’s County spokesman said reassigning career fire personnel is one of many options under consideration. No final decisions will be made without the Prince George’s County Council’s approval and public input.