New Market Fire Co. has temporarily moved out, leaving the town with one engine for immediate response.
The town was also left with an ambulance, but all other emergency vehicles in New Market have moved five miles away to Spring Ridge, where paid staff relocated after unforeseen obstacles while the fire station is being remodeled.
Paid staffers needed access to running water, so they moved the station’s other engine and ambulance to the Spring Ridge station 10 days ago, said Chief Benjamin Nalborczyk. Moving paid staff out of town will create a delay only in response to two-engine fires, he said.
During a telephone interview on Wednesday, Nalborczyk said it is unlikely that residents will notice a delay in service.
Since the split to Spring Ridge, Nalborczyk said the New Market station has been fully staffed in trailers behind the building 24 hours a day, increasing the number of volunteers immediately available to respond to calls.
But increasing the staff at the station has come with some sacrifice.–
Volunteers are now working in trailers without access to restrooms in the firehouse, said Thomas Owens, director of the Division of Fire and Rescue Services.
Nalborczyk said volunteers are using restrooms inside the homes of nearby residents who are fire company members. He said volunteers are not upset about the water being shut off at the firehouse.
“This is just a temporary situation,” Owens said Wednesday in a telephone interview.
Kitchen facilities at the station are closed, too, another reason why paid staff moved out, Owens said.”There is inconvenience all the way around, no question,” Owens said.
New Market Mayor Winslow F. Burhans III said he is “mildly concerned” about the staffing levels at the station during construction, but trusted that the move was well thought-out. Burhans also noted that the town would be served by stations with response times similar to what other communities, such as Lake Linganore, receive all the time.
Generally, three career/paid firefighters are at the station at all times, and sometimes there are more, Nalborczyk said. It takes six people to respond to a call, so volunteers are always needed, even when the paid firefighters are in New Market.–
Nalborczyk said the department had no problem in the first nine days of the setup responding to any calls.
“There have been zero times our current staffing has caused a missed call or a delayed response,” he said.
But on Wednesday, Owens painted a slightly different picture, acknowledging that it would take career staff more time to respond because of the added distance.
“We hope residents understand,” Owens said.
A promise of safety was also directed toward residents such as Edward Pavlinsky, who lives in a planned community that depends on the fire company.
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Pavlinsky said the situation sounds like “poor planning.”
“I guess volunteers don’t have to go to the restroom?” he said.
The split between paid staff and volunteers came as a surprise to Pavlinsky, but he gave credit to both parties for serving the area.
Nalborczyk said any residents with concerns about response times or who want to know more about the construction are encouraged to stop by the station and meet the volunteers.
The remodeling and addition project of the 76 W. Main St. site was undertaken after the county announced plans to build a new station east of town. Updating, renovating and adding to the current station would keep the station on Main Street, Nalborczyk said.
The current station was built in 1960 and added on to in 1966 and 1971, according to the company.
The addition of a 3,000- square-foot second floor and expansion of the engine bay will make room for all of the department’s vehicles, some of which were previously parked in a shed behind the station.
The $1 million renovation is being funded by the volunteers from money raised at bingo nights and other events, Nalborczyk said.
Construction on the station started in mid-August and is expected to be complete in January.
Nalborczyk did not know when the engines and paid firefighters would return to the station. He said construction is moving quickly and is at least a week ahead of schedule.
Owens agreed, but also said construction hiccups were not expected so soon.
“Right now it’s a bit of a hardship,” Owens said.
In the first nine months of 2012, the station has responded to 1,031 fire and EMS calls. In 2011, the station handled 1,382 calls.