By DAVE McMILLION
10:58 PM EST, December 10, 2012
The president of the suspended Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. Monday night laid out a comprehensive plan for getting the department back in service, which included paid staff and relying on college students who can live at the department for free in exchange for becoming members.
Several members of a task force studying what to do about the suspended fire department said they like the plan and thought the department was on the “right track.”
“I think it shows a lot of initiative from the Fairplay Fire Department,” said task force chairman Paul Miller.
Miller said the task force will consider the plan and the results of an inspection of the department to come up with a final set of recommendations.
The task force’s next meeting will be Jan. 7, Miller said.
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.
The inspection of the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. was conducted by the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association.
The lengthy report was outlined to the task force Monday night at Rockland Woods Elementary School on Sharpsburg Pike by Brian Lowman.
The inspection covered a wide variety of areas, like what kind of systems fire departments in the county use to keep track of firefighters while they are working at emergency scenes.
The inspection found Fairplay uses a system that is no longer used in the county, which makes the company out of compliance on the system.
Another example of the results of the inspection report is that Fairplay is out of compliance on a flow testing procedure for self-contained breathing apparatus for fire fighters, according to Lowman.
Fairplay’s comprehensive plan, which was outlined by fire company president Bill Pennington, addresses the problem the fire company had in responding to calls during the day.
To help volunteers respond to calls, the plan calls for hiring some paid members and setting up a mutual aid system with the Clear Spring Volunteer Fire Department, according to Pennington.
Although some of the ideas were met with support, task force member Jeb Eckstine said the idea of letting college students interested in fire service live at the fire station for free in exchange for working for the department has been tried elsewhere in the county.
The problem is not many college students took advantage of it, Eckstine said.
Pennington said the department also plans to look into grant money to fund its needs.
Task force members and Fairplay representatives also continued working on other issues such as fire department members reportedly not having access to bathrooms at the fire station when it was in operation.
Pennington said he believed that issue was resolved.
Although task force member Tim Almany said he liked some of the ideas in Fairplay’s plan, he also said that Fairplay was a divided community because of the fire department’s issues and it will take a lot of work from the department to bridge those differences.
“It’s something that’s going to take resources and money, and it’s going to take time,” Almany said.
The audience in past task force meetings has dwindled some but it had increased to about 50 people Monday night.
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