Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department

Resident sues Prince George's County over firefighter staffing reallocation

Berwyn Heights, College Park and Greenbelt have gone to court to sue Prince George's County over their plan to move dozens of firefighters.

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A Berwyn Heights resident is suing Prince George’s County over its decision to relocate firefighters out of her community.

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.

"We have reached out to the county,” Jodie Kulpa-Eddy, resident and former elected official, said. “We were trying to have some discussions with them but there didn't seem to be any movement on their part."

She’s not the only one suing. Along with Berwyn Heights, the local governments of College Park and Greenbelt have gone to court to try and stop the plan.

A joint statement from the three municipalities asked the fire chief and county executive to reconsider the changes, voicing concerns about the safety of the residents, businesses and fire/EMS personnel.

"I feel that sometimes, as difficult as it can be, sometimes a lawsuit is what's necessary to get people's attention," Kulpa-Eddy 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.

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.

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 Prince George’s County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association is also pushing back. They said this change will lead to longer responses and stations being taken out of service during the day.

“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.

The department got approval for 150 new firefighters, but hiring and training them takes time.

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

The reallocation plan began June 30 and will be reevaluated in October.

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