Prince George's Co. Fire & Morningside volunteers butt heads over ambulance

10:11 AM, Aug 19, 2013   |    comments
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MORNINGSIDE, Md. (WUSA9) -- The chief of Morningside Volunteer Fire Department released a new statement on the station's website this morning about the rift with Prince George's County career firefighters:

"Through our commitment to Public Safety we have not removed the Prince Georges County (PGFD) owned and operated Ambulance from the Morningside (MVFD) Fire Station today. Instead, we are once again reaching out to Prince Georges County Officials and imploring them to meet with us. In an effort to comply with the newly imposed staffing constraints and to provide a mutually beneficial resolution, we are again requesting that the Ambulance at the MVFD Station be converted to an All Response Medic Unit.

This request would not only guarantee an Ambulance in the Morningside Fire Station, it would also not require additional staffing that is mandated in the newly ratified Collective Bargaining Agreement between Prince Georges County and the Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association, Local 1619. Finally and most importantly, it would increase the level of service provided to the Morningside area."

Prince George's County Fire Department says that PGFD Fire Chief Marc Bashoor exchanged text messages with Volunteer Chief Michael White on Monday morning, with the two agreeing to meet and discuss their issues.

Bashoor also released a statement on Monday:

"We are pleased to announce that the ambulance transport unit assigned to the Morningside Volunteer Fire Department, (MVFD) remains in service. I have agreed to reopen direct discussions with the Morningside volunteer leadership this morning, after it became clear the ambulance would indeed remain in service. Further discussions will be held to attempt a long term resolution to this situation. ..."The County continues to provide career staffing and equipment to support the efforts of the MVFD."

WUSA 9 reported earlier that the volunteers wanted to remove an ambulance owned and operated by the county because of a new collective bargaining agreement that forces additional career staff to be at the fire station located on Suitland Road.

Volunteer firefighters threated to have it towed off their property, the Morningside Volunteer Fire Department, because a new collective bargaining agreement mandates that four career firefighters be staffed around the clock. That move could in turn bump volunteers off the firetrucks. 

The standoff was expected to come to a head Monday morning when the career firefighters showed up for work.

"For a volunteer organization to say we're not going to provide that service is unacceptable," Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said.

Morningside Volunteer Fire Chief Michael White said it's about money and principle.

"They're saying we're not going to provide the service which is untrue. We're going to provide the same service as we've done since our existence," White said.

Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said it comes down to safety.

Volunteers threatened to remove the ambulance, which is mainly staffed by career firefighters, because the new CBA is forcing two additional career firefighters at their station.

Chief White says they can provide the same level of care without the ambulance, but admits that there could be a delay in transporting patients.  The closest firehouse is several miles away.

"There's a community that depends on that ambulance. Just in that response area, they run over 1000 calls a year, that's one thousand calls that will have to come from somewhere else," Chief Bashoor said. 

In a letter, Chief Bashoor warned White's rank as volunteer chief could be revoked if the ambulance is placed out of service.

But Chief White is standing firm. "It's what I believe is the right thing to do," he said.

On the other hand, Chief Bashoor said, "Those are decisions that compromise public safety I cannot allow someone who is willing to compromise public safety to be in a position of authority. I've given the directive the ambulance is to remain in service and that's what I expect to have happen."

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