Thomas Warren, wtop.com
WASHINGTON – Four Prince George’s County fire stations will lose a combined 22 paid firefighters to other stations in the county on March 4 as part of the county’s multi-step staff realignment plan.
The decision was announced in a staff memo on Feb. 1 from Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor. In the memo, Bashoor says the changes were made once “all patterns of redundancy in service” were identified.
In making the decisions on which stations needed reassigning, officials analyzed population density, call volume and seven-minute response times at each location; metrics are based on standards set by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission Public Safety Master Plan and the National Fire Protection Association.
“What we’ve done is balanced where they are, and spread those out, so the citizens are getting a better coverage,” Bashoor says.
Seat Pleasant Station 808, Branchville Station 811, Boulevard Heights Station 817, and West Lanham Hills Station 828 are the four stations losing paid firefighters.
Branchville Assistant Chief Joseph Scarpone says the change could have negative ripple effects to the surrounding fire stations.
“This station runs 5,000 calls a year. You can’t just throw 2,500 calls a year on stations that are already running 5,000 on their own and not change their dynamic,” Scarpone says.
The two closest fire stations to the Branchville facility are the College Park Volunteer Fire Department (0.9 miles away) and the Berwyn Heights Fire Department (1 mile away).
Bashoor says those two stations – and others in the area – can easily pick-up the slack.
“There are 10 fire stations that can get to that location, or those general locations, in seven minutes. That’s a pretty significant overlap of service,” Bashoor says.
The Branchville station and its 83 volunteer firefighters, along with the other three stations, will still operate and provide assistance when called upon, according to Bashoor.
The paid firefighters allowed the volunteers to handle outside full-time jobs or school responsibilities, Scarpone says.
The assignments were the first part of a four-part restructuring plan for county fire departments. The next phase will examine the necessity of two-person shifts.
Bashoor insists the moves are not a short-term fix due to financial restraints, but a long-term measure to streamline the county’s response system.
The county currently has 810 career firefighters and 1,500 certified volunteer firefighters.
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