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Growth prompts paid position for busy fire company

July 07, 1998|By LISA GRAYBEAL

FUNKSTOWN - Washington County's busiest volunteer fire company is planning to become the second volunteer company outside of Hagerstown city limits to pay a full-time firefighter to cover emergency calls during the day.

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Funkstown Volunteer Fire Company is accepting applications for a full-time, paid firefighter who would staff the station from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to the written job description released by fire company officials.

The position will pay $20,500 a year plus health care benefits and will be funded from the fire company's annual budget and gaming revenues, said Kyd Dieterich, fire company chief.

The volunteer company decided to create the paid position in anticipation of population growth in the next several years, which will mean more houses, businesses and traffic.

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"We wanted to be proactive about this. We didn't want to wait until we had a lack of manpower or an unmanageable call load to hire someone full time," Dieterich said.

Fire department officers and board members have been considering hiring a full-time firefighter for two years, Dieterich said.

In that time, the department has had a paid member on duty on an as-needed or part-time basis, he said.

Mount Aetna Volunteer Fire Department has been the only company in the county outside of Hagerstown to have a full-time paid firefighter, according to fire officials.

Fire departments in Hagerstown have had paid full-time firefighters for several years.

In addition to regular firefighting duties, the full-time position at Funkstown also requires the person hired to maintain the building and equipment, perform some administrative assignments, and attend meetings, conferences and training sessions, among other jobs.

"This person will be more than someone to drive the truck," Dieterich said.

If nothing else, the full-time employee will provide some relief to fire officials who face manpower shortages and scheduling problems that come with being a volunteer company.

"There are times we've been concerned about coverage and on rare occasions we've had nobody to make a commitment," Dieterich said.

The move to hire a full-time, paid firefighter isn't meant to offend the company's dedicated volunteers, he said.

"I hope people understand that this is a need-driven decision and not because we don't have enough people who care...We'll still be the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Department. This is only to enhance what we already do," Dieterich said.

Last year, Funkstown fire department responded to 397 fire calls and provided first responder services or support to ambulance companies on 603 occasions, making it the county's busiest department, according to the Comprehensive Study of Emergency Fire and Medical Services Delivery for Washington County.

In 1996, the department went out on 1,087 fire and emergency medical services calls, the study said.

Funkstown fire department's coverage area also is one of the largest in the county at 202.4 road miles, third only to Clear Spring with 246.6 miles and Hancock with 216.5 miles, the study said.

By the year 2020, the number of housing units in Funkstown is expected to almost double from an estimated 4,781 homes currently to 7,572, according to the study.

That makes it one of the fastest growing areas in the county.

"We need to change to accommodate the needs of the community. We don't want to end up trying to play catch-up someday," Dieterich said.

He said he also wants to leave the next generation with a fire department that's healthy, organized and one that runs like "a well-oiled machine."

Anyone interested in applying for the position may pick up an application at the fire company at 2 S. Westside Ave.

The deadline for submitting the application is Wednesday, Aug. 5 at 4 p.m.

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