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Fire, rescue association to discuss Fairplay controversy

November 19, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- When members of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association gather Thursday in Smithsburg for the organization's monthly meeting, controversial issues involving the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Company will be discussed, fire and rescue officials said Wednesday afternoon.

That comes after at least four Fairplay volunteer firefighters were informed Nov. 11 by the Fairplay company's president that their memberships were not being renewed, the affected firefighters have told The Herald-Mail.

Kevin Lewis, director of the Washington County Division of Fire and Emergency Services, and Glenn Fishack, president of the volunteer association, met in closed session Tuesday afternoon with the Washington County Commissioners in connection with the situation at the Fairplay company.

The commissioners did not take official action on the matter Tuesday, but did have a lengthy discussion, County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said Wednesday morning.

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"The commissioners and fire association are taking an active role, an aggressive role to address this situation," Aleshire said.

Fairplay's fire company still is going out on calls, with companies in the surrounding area providing dual coverage, Lewis has said.

"They've got the best coverage in the world down there," Fishack said Wednesday.

Between seven and 10 of the remaining Fairplay volunteers actively fight fires, and the company has additional people, such as drivers, who respond in other capacities, Aleshire said.

"Fairplay currently has 18 active firefighters. Two former volunteer firefighters contacted Fire Chief (Leonard) Heller to rejoin upon learning that the five members in question did not receive membership renewals," said Meghan Pennington, the daughter of Fairplay Volunteer Fire Company President Bill Pennington, who is serving as his spokeswoman.

But Lewis said Fairplay probably had between seven and 10 active firefighters after about eight people either resigned, expressed interest in resigning or did not have their memberships renewed.

Maryland requires volunteer fire companies to have 10 active firefighters, he said.

According to county standards, a minimum of four people -- including two with Firefighter I designations given to those who have completed an accredited Firefighter I and Hazardous Materials Operations training program -- are required to operate an engine.

The commissioners on Tuesday provided guidance, and the association will discuss the situation and vote tonight on what action, if any, should be taken, Lewis and Fishack said.

The vote will give other member companies of the volunteer association an opportunity to provide input, Lewis said.

Twenty-seven local fire and rescue companies belong to the volunteer association. When votes are taken, each company is entitled to one vote, according to its bylaws.

According to the association's bylaws, available at its Web site, www.wcvfr.org, "The Association is authorized to suspend a company's membership at any time. The Association, by a vote of two-thirds of the member companies eligible to vote, determines that a company is proved to be in violation of the By-Laws or such standards or directives which have been approved by The Association or no longer meets the qualifications."




If you go



What: Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association meeting

When: Thursday, Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m.

Where: 22 N. Main St., Smithsburg

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