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Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. agrees to changes

March 17, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

FAIRPLAY -- Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. has agreed to accept a county staff person to fill out its daytime staff and to restore first-responder service after more of its members complete first-responder training, Washington County Fire and Emergency Services Director Kevin Lewis said Tuesday.

The company agreed to the changes after the Washington County Commissioners decided last week to cut the company's funding and consider decertifying it if it did not take steps to address staffing and service issues.

Tuesday was the deadline the county set for the company to accept a paid county staff person.

Fairplay is the only fire company in the county that operates in an area without an emergency medical services company, but does not provide first-responder service, Lewis told the commissioners last week. Less than one-third of its members are certified first responders, he said.

The company also suffers from a shortage of volunteers during daytime hours, Lewis said.

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Lewis said he and Glen Fishack, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, met Friday with Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. officials. Lewis and Fishack laid out the county's mandate and the company agreed to its terms, Lewis said.

Officials were working out the details of the staffing arrangement, such as the county staffer's work hours, in-station obligations and other responsibilities, Lewis said. He hopes to implement the additional staffing by March 30, he said.

The arrangement will consist of reassigning one firefighter/emergency medical technician from the county's Special Operations Team to work out of the Fairplay company during daytime hours until the company can provide adequate daytime staffing for fire and medical calls, Lewis said.

The county is scheduling a first-responder course for interested members of the Fairplay company, Lewis said. They should be able to complete the course in time to restore first-responder service by the commissioners' 90-day deadline, he said.

The company also agreed to host a public forum to address residents' questions and concerns, Lewis said.

A date for the forum has not been set, but Lewis said officials plan to hold it at the Fairplay company's station during the first week of April.

The county has been working with the company to improve response and staffing levels since November, when at least 12 of the company's members either resigned or were told their memberships would not be renewed.

Lewis said the company's commitments to accepting temporary county staffing and restoring first-responder service represented progress in the right direction.

"It's a definite big step," he said.

However, there is still work to be done, Lewis said.

"It's a process that's going to continue to evolve," he said.

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