Tempers flare at Fairplay fire company task force meeting

September 10, 2012|By DAVE MCMILLION |
  • Will Ball from Williamsport Co. 2 goes over the number of calls his units have taken as Leonard Heller, left, Terry Sprecher and Paul Miller, members of the task force studying the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co.'s operations, take notes Monday evening at Rockland Woods Elementary School, south of Hagerstown. Heller is chief of Fairplay's fire company.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — In another heated meeting Monday night about the suspended Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co., a member of a task force studying the department’s operations made a motion to get more information about firefighters, like the results of physical examinations.

Task member Allen James, chief of Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Co. Inc., made a motion during a meeting at Rockland Woods Elementary School to get the information from the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association.

In addition to information about Fairplay firefighter physicals, James also wants to know the results of “fit tests,” which determine the suitability of gear worn by firefighters.

James’ motion also seeks information about different classifications of firefighters at the Fairplay department.

James’ motion, which was passed by the task force, aggravated Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. President Bill Pennington, who said former fire and rescue association president Glenn Fishack already determined his department met required standards.

Monday night’s meeting was the fifth for the task force, and Pennington complained about what he sees as constant “personal attacks” at the meetings.

“I’m not going to get down and wallow in the hole you’re in,” Pennington told James.

There were outbursts from the crowd, and task force member Steve Pifer, of Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co., suggested next week’s meeting involve only discussion among task force members.

Pifer said he wanted only discussion from task force members “so we can move forward,” although he stressed that the public is free to attend the meeting.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted in July to suspend Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. indefinitely for not responding quickly enough to all of its calls.

The task force was given three months to come up with possible solutions for getting the department running again, efficiently.

When task force members talked about the agenda for next week’s meeting, Pennington said he wants to discuss plans he has looked at to get the department in working order.

Representatives from different ambulance companies were invited to the meeting to talk about calls they handle in the Fairplay area.

Several of the ambulance company representatives said they wanted to see the Fairplay department resume operations.

Pennington said perhaps part of the solution is for the department to pay people to answer certain calls.

“We’re not denying there are issues on responses,” Pennington said.

During the meeting, a question arose about what the response time is to Rockland Woods Elementary School. Rescue officials said the response time to the school is about nine minutes.

That answer did not sit well with Barry Reid, who lives near the school and whose two children attend there.

“That amount of time is unacceptable for a choking child,” Reid said.

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