Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department

Prince George's County Fire & EMS reallocating staff to address shortages, burnout

3 local governments challenge plan in court

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Prince George’s County Fire & EMS’s chief plans to move dozens of firefighters from four stations to other parts of the county to address a critical staffing shortage, but three municipalities have gone to court to fight the decision with concerns it could be dangerous.

Chief Tiffany Green says the department needs to move 55 firefighters to address the shortage and worker burnout heading into peak summer vacation season. Safety will not be impacted, she said.

“The 55 personnel that we are redeploying are going into existing vacancies all throughout the county, and that’s the goal, again, to ensure that they’re not called back for mandatory overtime and holdovers, but we are filling the existing vacancies and spreading out our resources throughout the entire county,” Green said.

The department is pulling 24 firefighters from Station 835 in Greenbelt, five from Station 839 in Bowie, six from Station 814 Berwyn Heights and 20 from Station 855 in Bunker Hill.

Green says firefighters are stressed and some are quitting.

“What I saw last year was burnout, fatigue, and mental and physical challenges as a result of these holdovers,” she said.

The local governments of Berwyn Heights, College Park and Greenbelt have gone to court to try and stop the plan, saying it will make their communities less safe.

The Prince George’s County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association also is pushing back.

“We have this plan that the fire chief put before us and we have to try and work with it even though it’s going to hurt people,” President Lee Lutz said.

He says the association wasn’t included in the process. They say it will take firefighters longer to get to scenes.

“It’s going to impact response times, because they’re taking firefighters out of stations, and, basically, those stations will probably be out of service during the daytime hours,” Lutz said.

Green says the shortage is part of a nationwide problem. She says the department is paying $30 million yearly in overtime.

The department got approval for 150 new firefighters, but it takes time to hire and train them.

Thirty-two firefighters will graduate from training in July. Another 53 began their training this month.

The reallocation plan begins Sunday and will be reevaluated in October.

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