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Latimer named emergency chief

November 08, 2005

Congratulations to John Latimer on his appointment as director of Washington County's Division of Fire and Emergency Services.

A longtime volunteer firefighter and current chief of the Long Meadow Volunteer Fire Co., Latimer is also a field and special programs instructor with the University of Maryland's Fire and Rescue Institute.

He will need all those skills and more to deal with a fire and rescue system that is certain to be stressed by the county's population growth, the increasing difficulty of attracting new volunteers and the resulting pressure for more government funding.

The volunteer companies have long argued that with increasing training requirements, it is difficult to sustain a new recruit's enthusiasm through the months of work required before he or she can actually become an accredited firefighter or rescue worker.

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Company officials also say that those who want to do such work shouldn't also be asked to raise money for their own equipment. Volunteers have long noted that sheriff's deputies don't have to raise money to purchase their own cruisers and sidearms.

Latimer faces a full plate of items that need action, including oversight of preparations for homeland security. But he should get some help from all county companies' members because he's one of them, first coming to the fire house with his father, who was also a volunteer.

The Emergency Services Council report presented in 2001 provides a good blueprint for action. Latimer has a head start on that because he helped put the document together.

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