Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services: A Collaborative Approach

All of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions depend on some level of volunteers for the delivery of fire and rescue service. As volunteer fire companies continue to evolve, it is critical for local governments to strengthen their relationships with local volunteer firefighters.

From Left to Right: Commissioner Levengood, Chip Jewell, Michael Faust, Tom Owens, Richard DeVore

During the 2017 MACo Winter Conference panel “Together We Respond: A Collaborative Approach to Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services” attendees learned how Maryland counties are collaborating with volunteer fire companies to protect lives, property, and the environment.

Clarence “Chip” Jewell, Director/Deputy Chief, Frederick County Division of Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services, discussed the evolution of the fire service in Maryland. Mr. Jewell also provided data on the cost savings for jurisdictions that are able to hire volunteer firefighters.

Michael Faust, Second Vice President, Maryland State Firemen’s Association, discussed the fire service from a state perspective, including some of the opportunities and challenges related to firefighters in Maryland. Mr. Faust also highlighted grant opportunities for the recruitment and retention of firefighters.

Richard Devore, Director, Emergency Services, Allegany County, discussed the evolution of the fire service in Allegany County. He also described some of the challenges and obstacles counties face when recruiting firefighters. Mr. Devore also talked about how Allegany County has recently started the process of evolving into combination service. Finally, he discussed challenges unique to rural jurisdictions in Maryland.

Tom Owens, EFO, Director/Chief, Frederick County Division of Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services, described the steps counties need to take in order to evolve from volunteer staffing to combination staffing. Chief Owens focused on the keys for making the transition in a way that forms a partnership, and the importance of assuaging potential concerns over what some could see as a potential coup.

The session was moderated by Caroline County Commissioner Wilbur Levengood and was held on Thursday, December 7. The MACo Winter Conference was December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year’s conference theme was “The Power of Partnership.”