Emails to county indicate residents dissatisfied with Fairplay fire company's service
Incidents cited of failure to respond or failure to respond quickly
Fairplay Volunteer Fire Company (By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer / July 30, 2012)
If other Fairplay fire company members are available, they would meet the driver at the fire hall or the scene, he said.
“We’re taking a chance,” Heller said, admitting it’s a “hit-and-miss thing” regarding whether another fire company member is available to respond during those hours.
Dustin Drive fire
One of the weekday incidents Fairplay failed to respond to within 10 minutes was a house fire at 7198 Dustin Drive on April 20, 2011, according to Lewis and a copy of Fairplay’s response log for that incident that was provided by the county.
That fire resulted in the destruction of the Carder family’s four-bedroom home and the death of five pets, said Stacy Carder.
Four fire companies, including Fairplay, two EMS companies and the county’s special operations unit were dispatched at 1:36 p.m. for that fire, Lewis said.
A Sharpsburg engine tanker arrived first, at 1:47 p.m., followed by several other units from various fire and ambulance companies, Lewis said.
Fairplay never had a fire engine or tanker respond, but had two utility trucks carrying a total of five people arrive at the house fire at 2 p.m. and 2:23 p.m., Lewis said.
Heller said Fairplay had nine qualified firetruck drivers at the time of the Dustin Drive house fire, but none of them was available at that time. Four of them worked in Hagerstown at jobs they could not leave, two worked in Frederick, Md., one worked in the Washington, D.C., area, one was a truck driver who does short and long hauls, and one was a farmer who couldn’t make it to the call, he said.
“(We) depend on the mutual-aid department to help us out,” Heller said.
Sharpsburg Fire Chief Allen James also sent a letter to the commissioners supporting Lewis’ recommendation for the Fairplay fire company.
In his letter, James references the added call volume and operational costs Sharpsburg has incurred because of the calls to respond to Fairplay’s primary service area.
James said Monday that Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Co. is “willing to accept that cost for the betterment of the community” because its members believe in the ultimate goal of getting the Fairplay fire company reorganized so it is self-sustaining again.
James said he also was concerned about potential burnout for volunteer firefighters in the surrounding communities who assist on service calls in Fairplay’s primary area.
So far, James said, he hasn’t heard of or seen any indications of burnout at his department.
James said volunteer fire companies have times when they are understaffed, but for Fairplay, it’s a “more frequent” issue.
Bragunier said being a firefighter is an inherently dangerous job, but the situation can become more dangerous when it takes longer for the first firetruck to get to the fire because the structure can weaken as the fire spreads.
The fire can be “too far gone to risk our lives, or so far along when (firefighters) go in that structural support is gone, and someone could get hurt or killed,” Bragunier said.
The Carders plan to attend Tuesday’s commissioners meeting.
“I wouldn’t want to see the fire department literally shut down, as in not be there,” said Michael Carder, who said he supports a suspension. “I would like to see somebody take charge of it and make it a functional fire department.”