This is not the first time county officials have been concerned about Fairplay’s ability to respond to emergency calls.
In March 2009, the commissioners gave the fire company a week to accept the county’s offer to add a paid county staff member to the company during daytime hours because it failed to respond adequately to 13 of 22 calls in February 2009, according to Herald-Mail archives.
The fire company accepted that position from the county.
Lewis said that a person from the county’s special operations department worked at the Fairplay fire company for about two months, until Fairplay could improve its staffing.
The issue came up again when county officials reviewed Fairplay’s response to emergency calls at the end of 2011, and did a review of calls from Jan. 1 to May 31 this year, Lewis said Sunday.
Fairplay’s 26.3 percent failure rate during that five-month period represented almost 49 percent of the 90 failed responses throughout the county during that time period, according to the presentation document. The next- closest failure rate for a fire or ambulance company was 5.1 percent based on the failure to respond to seven of 137 service requests, according to the document.
Fairplay is not an ambulance company, so on medical calls it provides a first response, Lewis and Heller said. That first response consists of providing basic life-support skills such as CPR and bandaging, Lewis said.
Including some recent additions, Fairplay has 21 active members, Heller said. Of those 21, 13 have medical training, he said.
Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co.’s primary service area goes roughly from College Road to the north to Taylors Landing Road to the south, and from Downsville Pike to the west to the bridge at Devil’s Backbone Park to the east, Heller said. Fairplay’s primary territory includes the state prison complex south of Hagerstown, he said.
Fairplay is an unincorporated rural community south of Hagerstown.
Fixing the problem
Fairplay fire officials met with representatives of the fire association and county Division of Emergency Services, including Hill and Lewis, on July 23, officials said.
Heller said Fairplay officials were asked at that meeting if they had plans to provide career, or paid, staffing.
“We just told them we don’t have the funding right away,” Heller said.
“We didn’t know it was this bad,” Heller said of the recommendation for the commissioners to suspend Fairplay fire company’s operations.
Heller said money will be pulled from elsewhere in the fire company’s budget to cover the cost of paid personnel. Heller said he did not know yet how much the paid services would cost or what area of the budget would be cut to cover those expenses.
Clear Spring Volunteer Fire Department is going to aid Fairplay at first, providing personnel Fairplay can pay for daytime weekday coverage, Heller said. Meanwhile, Fairplay fire company will advertise for part-time professionals, he said.
Fairplay fire officials will need to hold more fundraisers to offset the additional cost, Heller said.