Thursday, December 12, 2013 9:52 AM
Photo by Jim Davis. Branchville Volunteer Fire Department in College Park is one of several companies seeking volunteers.
Published on: Thursday, September 12, 2013
By Jim Davis
More than six months have passed since Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department removed daytime career staffing from four volunteer fire departments.
The Fire Department reassigned 20 daytime career firefighters from Seat Pleasant (Company 808), Branchville (Company 811), Boulevard Heights (Company 817) and West Lanham Hills Volunteer Fire Department (Station 828) to other stations in the county on March 3. This left volunteers to staff their stations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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. Bashoor said the reassignment would provide firefighting and emergency medical services to more residents than the current staffing model.
But, Volunteer Fire Chief Dave McGill, of Seat Pleasant Volunteer Fire Company, said volunteer staffing is not filling the void left by the reassigned career firefighters. Volunteer recruiting is down and volunteers often have full-time jobs that limit the time they can volunteer.
Since career staffing has been removed from Branchville, staffing both the fire truck and ambulance has become a problem. Many of the volunteers who previously only staffed the equipment at night now have to staff the units during the day as well.
“This puts a strain on our volunteers to cover daytime hours as well as nighttime hours,” said James Crisman, president of Branchville Volunteer Fire Department.
To help with staffing fire trucks at Branchville VFD, several members attended a fire department expo in Baltimore that several thousand firefighters throughout the country attend in hopes of recruiting experienced volunteer firefighters, especially volunteers who might be attending the University of Maryland or volunteers who might be relocating to the College Park area.
“This is just another way for us to get the volunteers we need to staff our units,” Crisman said.
Dan Filippelli, 19, a volunteer firefighter with Crozier Volunteer Fire Department in Goochland County in Virginia attended the expo and was one of more than a dozen volunteers interested in becoming a volunteer at Branchville.
Over the weekend, Filippelli visited Branchville VFD and responded to several fire and emergency medical calls.
“Branchville responds to a lot more calls than we do in Goochland County,” Filippelli said. “I think this will be good place to join.”
Anyone interested in joining Branchville VFD should be 16 years old or older, Crisman said. He urged that interested volunteers stop by the fire house after 3 p.m. any day to speak to someone about becoming a member. Branchville VFD is located at 4905 Branchville Road in north College Park at University Boulevard and Rhode Island Avenue.