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City Fire Police looking for volunteers

April 23, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Controlling crowds and directing traffic may look easy, but it can be dangerous at times.

"You have to be on your toes. You don't want another accident to happen or someone getting hit," said Joshua McFarland, a new member of the Hagerstown City Police Department's volunteer Fire Police division.

Fire police are given the responsibility of crowd control and directing traffic at fires, accidents and crime scenes.

They may have to stand for hours at a scene and deal with motorists who can be disgruntled at the prospect of being detoured.

They are also there to direct traffic for special events such as concerts at the Maryland Theatre.

McFarland said he doesn't take it personally when confronted by upset motorists and doesn't find the job physically taxing.

"You're adrenaline gets pumping," he said.

For McFarland, 24, joining the Fire Police was a way to meet people after moving to Hagerstown from Pennsylvania more than a year ago.

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"It was a new experience for me," said McFarland, a 1998 graduate of Edinboro (Pa.) University with a degree in criminal justice.

In the nine months McFarland has been with the Fire Police he has gone on an average of about five calls a month, he said.

He likes the flexibility of being able to decide which incidents he will report to, and he has found it an easy fit with his job as a Washington County animal control officer, he said.

McFarland said he wants to eventually become a police officer, and being a Fire Policeman enables him to learn by watching experienced officers on the job.

"I know it's not a police position (with arrest powers), but I enjoy helping people," he said.

The Fire Police division has been under the direction of Hagerstown City Police since 1983.

Hagerstown Lt. Gary Spielman, who oversees the Fire Police, said he is looking for more officers like McFarland. Applicants must be 21 years old and have a valid driver's license. They must have a good driving record and a clean criminal history, he said.

There are 14 members on the Fire Police department and the city would like to increase that number to 20 to 30, Spielman said.

Participants complete an initial 16 hours of training and then another eight hours each year to stay current, he said.

The department saves about $1,000 a year by having Fire Police direct traffic and control crowds, he said.

In 1999 the Fire Police went on 447 emergency calls and 39 special events. They completed 195 hours of training, he said.

"They are a vital institution to the police department," Spielman said.

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