Anne Arundel residents battle firefighter shortage

Having a fire station in your community can be a good thing. But, if no one is there to work it, according to insurance companies, it doesn't count.

Three fire stations -- Herald Harbor, Maryland City and Galesville, are not recognized by an insurance company report. According to the Insurance Services Office these three fire stations do not have enough firefighters. The organization says the stations need at least four firefighters at all times. They only have two. ¬¬¬

Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold says public safety is a priority, but he also says budgetary issues remain a concern.

"Unfortunately, times are tough," Leopold said. "I've had to make cutbacks of all areas. I've had to reduce spending of over $70 million."

As far as the shortage at the fire stations, Leopold says it may not be as much of a staffing issue with the county as it is with the volunteers in the community. Over the years we had a decrease in the number of volunteers.

"If we had an increase in volunteers it would help with that insurance rating," he said.

Union leaders say the economy is to blame.

"We're at an economy that volunteers can no longer leave their jobs and run to the fire house when the alarm goes off or at night time," said Craig Oldershaw of the professional firefighters union. "They're probably working a second job to supplement their incomes."

As the economy and budget in Anne Arundel improve, Leopold says he hopes to make improvements.

"I hope to make improvements around the county, not just in Herald Harbor," he said.

Meanwhile, Oldershaw argues there are things that can be done now to ease the struggle created by the shortage.

"There is plenty of ways in our fire department right now that a restructuring could help ease these issues in these areas," Oldershaw said. "If not, he just needs to hire new positions."

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