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Council considers addressing fire safety issues

November 30, 1999|By DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN -

Characterizing the situation as beyond critical, members of Hagerstown City Council said Friday the city needs to move from talk to action to resolve funding and personnel issues affecting the Hagerstown Fire Department.

"We no longer can put it off," City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said. "It is time that our professional career firefighters and our professional volunteer firefighters hear that we're done talking and we've started doing."

During a budget retreat Friday morning, Metzner acknowledged the city is facing a number of competing and costly issues, though he said the council can no longer ignore the needs of the city's fire department. The department is asking for an additional 18 firefighters and a training captain, which would cost the city $946,798, according to city information.

Metzner said the city also needs to start planning to build a new fire station on the West End, where the time it takes firefighters to get to fires has increased due to annexation and growth issues. He said the Community Rescue Service ambulance company, which is not part of the city, faces similar issues. He said the city should try to either encourage CRS to have a presence on the West End as well or expand the department to include members trained to respond to medical emergencies.

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Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker praised Metzner's remarks and said that a shortage of firefighters has not only put city residents at risk, but threatens the safety of those firefighters responding to fires.

"Obviously there's not new money out there and I think mayor and council has come to the realization that the manning needs are not something we've been trying to inflate, they are real," Hawbaker said. "My number-one priority is making sure we have enough firefighters."

The fire department is scheduled to make a full presentation to the council on Tuesday.

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