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Task force to study volunteer fire company staffing

March 16, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Mount Aetna, Maugansville, Funkstown and Long Meadow fire companies are all volunteer firefighting groups in Washington County.

They also all face a volunteer shortage that has led them to pay people to staff their stations on weekdays.

Joe Kroboth, director of emergency services in Washington County, said a task force will study staffing problems at volunteer fire departments throughout the county. He said work will begin as soon as the Washington County Commissioners approve a membership list he provided in January.

Kroboth said four companies - not including the Volunteer Fire Company of Halfway, which pays its emergency medical service workers - had to begin paying day staff in recent years so they could respond to calls while most of its volunteers are at work.

Kroboth said other companies are considering hiring a paid member for overnight hours.

Kroboth said there are "many times each day when a crew goes out light," meaning there are fewer than the desired minimum number of people to operate a piece of fire apparatus.

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"If we don't have enough, structures are going to burn down and people are going to start getting hurt," he said.

Washington County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association President Tom Altman said the training now necessary for volunteers to respond to fires has made it difficult for companies to attract and keep new members.

"There's hundreds of hours involved in training," Altman said. "In today's world, the younger generation is just not interested in that, and therefore the volunteer fire companies are suffering."

Altman said the difficulty in "getting equipment rolling" for daytime incidents continues to increase as a result.

Altman said he hopes the study and its recommendations help solidify the futures of several volunteer companies.

Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co. Assistant Chief Paul Hottinger said that company implemented a paid position more than five years ago because of residential and commercial growth.

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