County Chief Restricts Maryland Department Response

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PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. (WUSA) - Another volunteer chief at Kentland Fire Station 33 has been suspended and the station's fire trucks won't be running as many calls.

Prince George's County Fire/EMS officials took action against the all-volunteer department after Kentland's acting chief, Tony Kelleher, rejected an offer to provide the station an ambulance with paid, career firefighters to staff the vehicle.

Back in February, Chief Lawrence H. Sedgwick ordered that all fire stations staff and maintain an ambulance. Kentland's Chief Mike Mattison was suspended in May for refusing to do so. At the time, volunteer firefighters wanted the county to provide career employees to run the ambulance around-the-clock.

Tuesday, Kelleher said he was "blindsided" during a meeting Monday with Chief Sedgwick's top aides. Kelleher said they give him less than 10 minutes to accept its offer for a staffed ambulance.

"He did not say no, but he did not say yes," said Prince George's County Fire/EMS Chief Spokesman Mark Brady. "Because we had a deadline and it was a strict deadline the fire chief was compelled to take disciplinary action against Kentland."

The county has stripped Kelleher of all operational duties and now forbids Station 33 from responding on most calls out of its first alarm area.

As the busiest volunteer fire department in the country, Kentland responds to an average of 21 calls per day. It offers specialized equipment to other companies in the area during emergencies. Kelleher said the county's new order puts lives in danger.

"The thing that puts people's lives in danger is because we have specialty apparatus, some stations that are going to be closer to the emergency won't have the same abilities that we do," he said.

Brady said the citizens will not see a reduction in services and the offer is still on the table.

"We would hope that at some point they would take on this ambulance especially with that offer for staffing for the ambulance. But at this point, they've not been able to say yes to that proposal," said Brady.

"Place an ambulance here," said Kelleher. "We'd like to have it, it is needed. The thing is, we just want a little help. Today the help was offered but it was offered in a sketchy way."

Kelleher claimed the volunteer station has been burned before by verbal promises. So until that proposal is in writing, he says his hands are tied.

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