‘We heard you’: Beltsville volunteer fire station to stay fully staffed, officials say

Residents holding signs supporting the full staffing of the firehouse at a meeting on Tuesday.(WTOP/Dick Uliano)

At a crowded community meeting in Beltsville, Maryland, residents stood up for their volunteer fire department and were assured their community would be getting what it asked for — career county firefighters will remain on the job at the Beltsville Volunteer Fire Station.

After nearly a month of back and forth debate between the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS and the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association employees of Station 831, career firefighters — whose primary employment and retirement plan come from the fire service — will now be able to stay at the volunteer station.

“That’s what the community wanted, that’s what we heard you say, we committed to that,” said Barry Stanton, deputy chief administrative officer for public safety for Prince George’s County.

Concerns were raised last month that career firefighters might be pulled from the aging Beltsville station because of several safety problems uncovered in a December investigation of the building including diesel fumes, sewage problems and possible cancer-causing contaminants.

County Fire Chief Tiffany Green also announced that the county is obtaining a suite of residential trailers that will house career and volunteer firefighters while repairs are made to the building.

“The trailer is going to be our temporary location to keep our firefighters safe. We’re going to have a facility assessment, so we have a company coming in, they’re going to do a complete assessment of our entire fire station to determine all the safety issues and things that need to be repaired,” said Chief Tiffany Green in an interview with WTOP.

“We know that’s going to be a lengthy process, so we just went ahead and procured the trailer so that they have a place to go and continue operational coverage while we’re doing the repairs,” she said.

Other county officials told the community at the meeting that efforts are underway to ensure the proper installation of the three attached trailers that will provide electricity, potable water and sewage connections. Upon completion of the renovations to the fire station, career staff and volunteer firefighters will be able to work and live in the station, the agency said in a press release.

Residents were hopeful and encouraged upon hearing the news. But some said they would wait and see if the county truly delivers on their word.

“It is a win for the community. It is definitely a win, as long as it comes to fruition and this is how it plays out,” said Margie Dickey, president of the Beltsville Volunteer Fire Department.

Dickey expressed disappointment she was not included in the county’s developing plans for the station, which is owned by the Beltsville VFD.

“I was not informed that the trailers had been secured so I have no idea how they are going to be set up … and exactly when all of this is going to take place,” said Dickey.

A “renovation committee” is being established by Green’s office to involve experts, career and volunteer staff and community representatives to collaborate in making the transition period in and out of the temporary trailers as smooth as possible.

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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