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Fire and rescue changes adopted

Richard D. L. Fulton

(1/9) The Frederick County Board of Commissioners voted January 8 to adopt an ordinance that will overhaul the fire and rescue services, and give more power to the county director charged with overseeing emergency operations.

Emmitsburg Vigilant Hose Company had been an entrenched supporter of the proposed changes, as Vigilant President Tim Clark told the Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners at their January 8 meeting, the evening before the county vote.

Clark also explained how the current ordinance evolved and the changes that would occur if the county adopted the proposed ordinance on the following evening.

Clark told the Emmitsburg commissioners that "about 20 months ago," the director (Thomas W. Owens) of the county Fire and Rescue (Services), along with the county commissioners, asked the Frederick County Volunteer and Rescue Association (VFRA) to address issues relating to the director’s job description.

In his (the director’s) job description, Clark stated, the director "was tasked with handling all fire and rescue services in Frederick County to get things done."

However, he said, "The ordinance didn’t give…(the director)…the authority to do that and to make changes necessary if need be with the volunteers services." As a result, the volunteer rescue services were asked to "come up with some type of ordinance change which would be satisfactory" and would establish a fire and rescue committee.

"Twenty months later, we get to a point where…there was a compromise (following a previously voted-down proposal)…that was voted on December 20 and that motion passed," Clark reported.

"The new ordinance would give the director of fire and rescue services (the rank of a chief and) the ability to do his job, basically. It also develops a fire and rescue board," Clark stated, whose members would be comprised of representatives of the five battalions that make up the county VFRA, two career representatives, a Frederick County and a Frederick City citizen representative, the county director, a county commissioner liaison, the medical advisor.

"The VFRA as a whole has voted in favor of this change," he said. "If enacted by the commissioners that will move forward. We have no problem with it (the proposed change)."

"Problem we’ve seen in the past it’s clear the VFRA doesn’t have the ability to take care of its own business as far as holding people responsible," Clark told the commissioners. "This change will allow that to take place. We have no problem with it."

"We’ve been actively involved…very vocal in support of this change…A lot of people put a lot of effort into this document. It’s not going to affect our service to the community what-so-ever. We’re stronger than we have ever been. We’re looking forward to this change," he stated.

The proposed ordinance also job description for all the volunteer chiefs in the county, and "also spells out the relationship between the career and volunteer officers," Clark said.

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