BOWIE, Md. (WUSA) - A statistical study by Prince George's County government this summer points to response problems in the county fire department that some firefighters say have been virtually ignored by prior county administrations.

The department is the largest in the country comprised of both career and volunteer firefighters. The study shows that two of the county's fire stations, Capitol Heights and Riverdale Heights, failed to respond to fire calls within one minute more than 30 percent of the time. Calls are then routed to another firehouse, contributing to delayed response.

"With any emergency, whether its a fire emergency or medical emergency, every minute, every second counts, so longer response times could translate into poorer incident outcomes in our communities," said Andrew Pantelis, the president of the Prince George's County Professional Fire Fighters & Paramedics Association.

Pantelis says understaffing is largely to blame.

"In 2010 in Prince George's County, out of the approximately 130 thousand calls, almost 30,000 of those calls for service we responded with understaffed personnel," he said, referring to standards set by the National Fire Protection Association.

The county depends on those volunteer firefighters.

"As the economy gets worse and worse, folks need to work more and more to make more money. The volunteers that normally have time to spend time at the fire house have to work. They don't have the time to be there.

"We don't have the budgets to put more career staffing in place so, in turn, you have a situation where the volunteer house doesn't have anyone available," said Fire Chief Marc Bashoor.

"We have never not answered a call. We respond every time someone calls 9-11," he said.

Both men tell 9News Now that the new county administration, unlike some of its predecessors, has begun to make strides by budgeting for more firefighters in each of the current and future budget plans.

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