Anne Arundel shuffles fire staffing to boost service in some areas

Acting Anne Arundel Fire Chief Michael Cox submitted a plan for saving money and improving response times over the next three months.

His 90-day plan will go into effect on Monday, July 1.

It includes boosting staffing levels at fire stations in Galesville and in Crownsville's Herald Harbor community.

Both neighborhoods have subpar insurance ratings because of multiple factors, including the availability of water to fight fires, staffing levels at local fire stations and response times, said Division Chief Keith Swindle, a fire department spokesman. As a result, homeowners may pay more for insurance in those communities.

Firefighters will be moved from other assignments from throughout the county to those two stations.

Herald Harbor will get two extra firefighters per 24-hour shift, while Galesville will get one more firefighter per shift. They'll also get safety officers and battalion chiefs.

The shuffling of firefighters to those stations represents the equivalent of 21 positions, which Swindle said would have cost more than $1 million per year if new employees had been hired.

"The taxpayers need to get the most out of their dollars they provide to us for service," Swindle said.

The fire department also plans to eventually put more firefighters at the Maryland City station in the western part of the county, which also has subpar insurance ratings, Swindle said.

The fire department plans to hire 100 new firefighters in the coming months, following an aribitrator's ruling that the county must maintain shifts of 24 hours on followed by 72 hours off for firefighters. The county had proposed moving to a 24 hours on, 48 hours off schedule and had let staffing levels decrease through attrition in anticipation of the switch.

With new hires coming on board, the department will be able to put more firefighters at Maryland City, Swindle said.

Cox's 90-day plan also outlines smaller cost saving measures.

The department had planned to buy a $90,000 airboat with the goal of using it primarily for clearing large amounts of smoke at fires on land, with the on-the-water use of the boat as a secondary use, Swindle said.

Instead, Cox's plan calls for buying a $15,000 trailer-mounted exhaust fan instead.

Also, the department will nix plans to spend $4,500 on pink vinyl striping for three ambulances and one support vehicle to show support for breast cancer awareness. Instead, fire department employees will wear pink shirts and pink ribbons will be put on vehicles during October, which is breast cancer awareness month.

In a statement, County Executive Laura Neuman praised the 90-day plan, saying: "The plan focuses on a more cost-effective use of resources, response time improvements, and a more efficient management structure."

Cox took over as acting chief on May 1, following the retirement of John Robert Ray.


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