There is controversy in Prince George’s County over the decision to reduce full-time staff from some fire houses.
The plan pulls full-time firefighters away from all-volunteer stations and sends them to stations where fire department leaders say they are needed.
“What we’re trying to do is to up staff stations throughout Prince George’s County so that we can have adequate staffing on both the engine and ambulance, meaning up to six persons at each station,” says Mark Brady, Prince George’s County Fire spokesman.
Seat Pleasant, Branchville, Boulevard Heights and West Lanham Hills are the four stations chosen because of their proximity to other nearby stations. The fire department says if needed, help could arrive at the all-volunteer stations in seven minutes.
The Branchville Volunteer Fire Company is one of the stations affected by the plan. They say from the beginning, those working here have had concerns about it.
“It’s a tough position to be in,” says Chief Richard Leizear.
Chief Leizear says they have known about the plan since December. He is concerned over the staffing of the ambulance because with a shrinking all-volunteer staff, it’s tough to cover for the full-time firefighters who used to work during the day on weekdays.
“Nobody wants to be here five days a week and do this every day. We all have lives, too,” he says.
The station is less than half a mile from the College Park station and about three-quarters of a mile from the Berwyn Heights station. They usually get volunteers from the University of Maryland, but in the summers all the students go home.
“We’re not guaranteeing we’ll get out every time, but we’re going to do the best we can,” says Chief Leizear.
To help cover Monday, four men volunteered after leaving their paid jobs.
Olga Escobar lives down the street from the firehouse and is not a big fan of the move.
“I don’t like it. I don’t like it,” she says. “They should stay here.”