Renewal failures political, some say

November 15, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

FAIRPLAY - Cory Lescalleet works full time for the Hagerstown Fire Department, part time as a paramedic in Boonsboro and has served as a lieutenant at the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Company. This year, he planned to run for deputy chief at Fairplay.

"Kind of like (President-elect Barack) Obama, we need change," Lescalleet said Friday.

Lescalleet and other Fairplay firefighters whose memberships were not renewed Tuesday said they believe they were pushed out of the company because of elections coming up in December.

"That's exactly what it's about," said Todd Vest, who has volunteered for Fairplay for 12 years.

Between 80 percent and 90 percent of the company's firefighters voted against Chief Leonard Heller in the last election two years ago, said Terry Doyle, a career paramedic in Frederick County who has volunteered for Fairplay for seven years.

"Hands down, we were going to win this election," he said.

The men were going to submit their nominations for the December election Tuesday night.


Before the general meeting, though, several firefighters were called in to meet with the president of the company. Some of those firefighters were told their memberships weren't going to be renewed, and others were given a choice and decided not to renew their membership.

Lescalleet claims that Heller is disrespectful to the firefighters. After four newer members spent four hours washing and waxing a truck for the Mummers Parade, all Heller did was complain about the wax they used, he said.

"Two years ago, we tried to get him (Heller) out then," said David Briscoe, who has volunteered as a firefighter/EMT at Fairplay since 2001, and works full time as a firefighter in another county.

Briscoe, who was considering a run for assistant chief, said that in the last election two years ago, almost all of the active firefighters voted against Heller, who was able to retain the position of chief because members of the ladies auxiliary and social members vote on the position, Briscoe said.

Lewis and Glenn Fishack, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, met Thursday night with several of the affected firefighters.

Lewis described the meeting as a "fact-finding mission," and on Friday night was to meet with officers from the Fairplay company.

Fairplay's fire company is "still functioning as a department" and still running calls, with companies from surrounding areas providing dual coverage, Lewis said.

"I just want to be supportive of the people who are there and the things they do," Bill Pennington, president of the Fairplay Fire Department, said Friday.

His fire company has some of the most technologically advanced equipment in Maryland, and with a new truck scheduled to arrive in December, it will take about three people to put out a fire, he said.

"I'm not saying it isn't nice to have plenty of volunteers, but we have planned ahead over the years and increased our technology," Pennington said. "In actuality, we are more capable of putting out a fire with less people than 10 years ago."

Lewis and Fishack will meet in closed session Tuesday with the Washington County Commissioners.

What do you think?

Today's question

Should the Washington County Commissioners, who provide some financial help for volunteer fire companies, require more accountability, fiscal and otherwise, from the companies?



Fairplay response time lags

The Fairplay Volunteer Fire Company's average response time this year is 10 minutes and 3 seconds, said Kevin Lewis, director of the Washington County Division of Fire and Rescue Services.

A company's response is considered to be late after five minutes, Lewis said. Any response after 10 minutes, or no response, is considered a failed response, he said.

This year's average response times for other departments were not available Friday, Lewis said.

Fairplay's average number of personnel on this year's calls is five, he said.

The statistics are based on 231 of the calls that Fairplay has gone out on this year. As of Thursday morning, Fairplay had responded to 337 calls.

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