The Prince George’s fire department has been on an unprecedented hiring spree, bringing in about 250 new recruits during the past three years to improve safety and response times, reports The Washington Post.
But the hiring has not been without controversy.
The county is the nation’s largest combination volunteer and career fire department, with 820 career fire and rescue staff working side by side with more than 1,000 volunteers. The recent spurt — all career firefighters — has exacerbated tensions among volunteers who worry that they are being pushed out.
“The bottom line is about service,” said Prince George’s Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor, adding that hiring more paid firefighters will improve response times. “We have demonstrated that our service has suffered because we worried if it was a paid person or a volunteer putting out the fire.”
For the county’s volunteer rank and file, the hiring of more paid firefighters is a direct threat to a grand tradition in the county: a robust and active volunteer firefighting corps that shows unprecedented investment in its community. Volunteer firefighters also point out that they continue to save the county money by reducing expenses on emergency services.
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