Carroll County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Local 5184 were presented its official charter from the International Association of Fire Fighters in a ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 12.
“It’s a formality, but it’s definitely a meaningful formality,” said 2019 executive board member Michael Karolenko.
The union successfully chartered in July of this year. Members include full-time career staff firefighters and EMS providers from Carroll County fire companies.
According to the Local 5184 website they “look to play an active role in advocation, education, and the future of emergency services in our area. We do not intend on pursuing collective bargaining at this time, but look forward to utilizing the greater resources provided to us by the IAFF to benefit Carroll County and its Fire/Rescue system.”
Andrew Pantelis, IAFF 4th District vice president, and Mike Rund, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland formally presented the charter.
“This is a dynamic time in our county. The formation of what’s coming next and what’s the result of these conversations we’re having now. Us doing this and advocating actively on our own part is going to be a large piece of where we go from here. We’ve already seen this in our conversations with commissioners or the opportunities we’ve had to speak with the public already, even though we’re on a limited basis at times, has been really positive,” Karolenko said during the presentation.
Vice President Michael Erdman said “Since we first started, we’ve done nothing but grow in leaps and bounds. Our membership’s almost doubled. We’ve met with the commissioners, CCVESA [Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association], the work group, the sheriff. Every conversation we’ve had with everybody has been nothing but positive.”
Pantelis said Maryland is fairly unique in the U.S. because many departments are comprised of strong numbers of career and volunteer members. He said IAFF affiliates are often met with trepidation that they are trying to eliminate the volunteers.
“We have to co-exist,” he said. “More times than not we’re able to find common ground. More times than not we’re after the same objective; we just sometimes find different ways to get there.”
“The way that we really get things accomplished for our members is sitting down and talking with people,” he advised.
Rund spoke about the role of the Maryland affiliate of IAFF.
“A major part of what we do is advocate for firefighters from Cumberland to Ocean City and everywhere in between, and things that are important to firefighters and EMS providers in Maryland,” he said.
For the Carroll association, Karolenko said, “It’s all really based on positively being part of the dialogue in Carroll County, positively being a part of emergency services in Carroll County.”
They aim to work in good faith with the Board of County Commissioners, the public they serve, the county fire companies and the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association.
“The Carroll County Local really is coming into this in a position of good faith toward working with everyone else,” Karolenko said. “Not being manipulative or expecting something that’s not sustainable.”
Carroll’s company structure is unique, he said, but through IAFF they will have the opportunity to interact with and learn from other Maryland counties that have gone through transitions in their emergency services.
Another the benefit of membership in IAFF is additional safety and training resources including employee health initiatives, education, cancer and burn services and grants assistance.
“We want to see Carroll County as a whole benefit from some of the tools that we have,” he said.
More information about the IAFF is available at www.iaff.org.
They wrote in a news release, “We are focused on working diligently with the citizens of Carroll County, our local fire companies, town and city governments, and the Board of Commissioners, alongside the volunteer association, to maintain excellent public safety.”