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Fire and ambulance companies say relationships improving

January 10, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Relationships between Washington County fire and ambulance companies haven't always been harmonious, but things are changing for the better, according to members.

"There was tension years ago. I've heard stories," said Tim Gargana, Sharpsburg Ambulance paramedic supervisor.

But medics and firefighters have the same goal - to help the community - and they do this more effectively by working together, he said.

After undergoing changes in operation and administration, Gargana said Sharpsburg Ambulance now has a positive relationship with the Sharpsburg Fire Department.

Since many of the volunteers and staff are trained as both medics and firefighters, they can share resources, Gargana said.

Often firefighters qualified as medics will assist on medical calls, and in turn medics qualified as drivers can respond to fire calls if able, he said.

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The situation has improved so much that at one point the ambulance and fire departments had investigated the possibility of merging. The idea was rejected after determining that it was economically unfeasible, he said.

The Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway has operated as a joint fire and rescue department since it acquired an ambulance in 1995, according to Alan Matheny, spokesman.

He classified Halfway's relationship with surrounding companies as "workable."

"There were some rough times when we got the ambulance because of territory disputes, but we've worked it out now," he said.

The Maugansville Goodwill Fire Department strives to live up to its name, said Chief Phil Ridenour.

"We know it's very important to work together, and we get along fine with surrounding companies," he said.

As in Sharpsburg's, members of Williamsport fire and ambulance companies say things are friendlier.

"We need to work as a team. We can't do it alone," said Williamsport Ambulance Chief Warren "Bo" Miller.

Limited availability of personnel during the day makes it a necessity, he said.

Members of the Hancock Fire Department and Rescue Squad have always recognized the need to get along, according to ambulance Chief Charles Lopp.

"If there's a qualified driver on the rescue squad that can pitch in when the fire department needs it, they do, and vice versa," he said.

In Boonsboro, Fire Department Capt. Jay Brandenburg said the fire and ambulance companies act professionally and help each other out when necessary.

"Both companies are looking out for the well-being of the county," Brandenburg said.

Without a fire tax and with increasing expenses, fire and rescue companies can't afford to be involved in petty disputes, he said.

"It's important to work together to pool our limited resources," he said. "We can't isolate ourselves and expect to survive on our own."

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