LARGO – The county added additional staff to 10 fire stations this spring to reach its goal of having six firefighters at each station. Prince George’s County Fire and EMS Department added six firefighters to staff fire trucks and ambulances across the county after the County Council approved a contract in 2012, said Andrew Pantelis, […]
LARGO – The county added additional staff to 10 fire stations this spring to reach its goal of having six firefighters at each station.
Prince George’s County Fire and EMS Department added six firefighters to staff fire trucks and ambulances across the county after the County Council approved a contract in 2012, said Andrew Pantelis, president of the Prince George’s County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Association.
It’s up to the county to pick which fire stations receive the extra personnel, he said.
“We would like all fire stations in the county to have six firefighters,” Pantelis said.
The firefighters hired this year will work shifts at the Forestville, Bowie and Allentown Road fire stations, said Prince George’s County Deputy Fire Chief Ben Barksdale. The increased staff will give each station three firefighters on the fire truck and two on the ambulance at all times, he said.
“Since I have been here in the last three years we have lost 120 people but hired 240, so you do the math,” Barksdale said. “We now have about 800 firefighters. Our goal is to have 1,200 firefighters, but that will take several years to reach that goal.”
There was a period of five years when the county did not hire anyone, Barksdale said, and about 150 people retired or left the department.
This year the county also put four new fire trucks in service. The department has new ladder truck, a heavy rescue squad, as well as about a dozen new ambulances.
It has been more than a year since the county fire department relocated 22 career firefighters from four volunteer fire stations in the county to other stations, leaving the volunteer stations without daytime career staffing. Branchville was just one of four volunteer fire stations to have its daytime career staffing removed by the county. West Lanham Hills Station 828, Seat Pleasant Station 808, and Boulevard Heights Station 817 all had their staffing removed.
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said the changes were in response to an internal evaluation of the department’s overall operations and personnel deployment, including current career staffing patterns for all facilities. The reassignment intended to provide firefighting and emergency medical services to more residents than the current staffing model allotted, he said.
“It’s been very difficult for us since the county removed our daytime staffing from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” said Ronald Leizear Sr., president of the Branchville Volunteer Fire Department. “We are trying our best to staff our ambulance and fire truck.”
Prince George’s County Fire Department is the 16th busiest fire department in the nation, according to department spokesman Mark Brady. Last year, Brady said, the department ran more than 122,500 calls for help, a decrease of 2,000 calls from 2012.
The fire department plans to hire between 60 and 70 more firefighters in fiscal year 2015, Barksdale said.
“We hope that the county council will support us with staffing,” he said.
Many volunteer fire stations in the county are in need of volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians, Brady said.
If anyone 16 years old or older would like to volunteer, they can stop by their local fire department or call Brittany Smith, volunteer Fire/EMS Recruiter, at 301-583-1941.