Md. Department Increases Staffiing at Two Stations

Aug. 4, 2013
The Anne Arundel County Fire Department added two firefighters to one station and one to another to increase response time and capabilities.

Aug. 03--The Anne Arundel County Fire Department has beefed up the staffs in the Herald Harbor and Galesville fire stations, two areas that were plagued by a lack of personnel, resulting in higher insurance rates for homeowners.

The staffing increases were welcome news to Councilmen Jamie Benoit, D-Crownsville, who not only represents Herald Harbor, but lives in the community and Jerry Walker, R-Gambrills, who represents Galesville. Benoit and Walker lobbied for staff increases at the firehouses last fall, arguing that the lack of personnel was effecting response times and raising homeowners' insurance rates in the communities.

Two additional firefighters were added per shift to Herald Harbor on July 22. One additional firefighter was added to the Galesville department a week earlier, fire department spokesman Division Chief Keith Swindle said.

That adds up to a rotating staff of 16 firefighters, not including volunteers, at each firehouse, Swindle said.

"I'm thrilled and believe the citizens deserve nothing less," Walker said.

The two fire houses, along with the Maryland City Volunteer Fire Department, have not been recognized by Insurance Services Office Inc. since 2007.

Insurance companies frequently use Insurance Services Office Inc.'s Public Protection Classification system to determine premium rates for residents and businesses in the areas the departments serve. The move is expected to reduce some insurance rates.

Although the paid staff is supplemented by volunteers at all three firehouses, ISO determined that there weren't at least four firefighters on staff around the clock.

Both firehouses now meet that requirement, Swindle said.

Fire officials have said Maryland City's staffing will be addressed following the spring 2014 graduation of the incoming fire academy class.

Benoit said he and his neighbors had seen significant increases in their homeowners' insurance rates.

"My homeowners' insurance premium is going up 12 percent, I've heard others going up 30 percent," he said.

The additional personnel is also expected to decrease response times. In the past, if fire and rescue personnel were tied up one call when another came in, firefighters had to come from stations as far as seven miles away.

The staff increases at the two stations come as part of a 90-day plan submitted by then acting Fire Chief Michael Cox in early July, which aims to save the county $1 million by reshuffling staff and nixing planned equipment purchases and expenditures.

Cox was named fire chief last month by County Executive Laura Neuman.

Copyright 2013 - The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

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