Sound the Siren: Support Maryland’s Volunteer Fire Companies

Do you have any idea how unsustainable the costs of fire protection would become without Maryland’s volunteers? Learn more about this critical resource and how new recruitment tactics, retention benefits, and long-range planning will help support and strengthen Maryland’s volunteer fire companies.

The Executive Director and Legislative Director of the Maryland State Firemen’s Association, Maryland’s association of volunteer firefighters will be speaking at MACo Conference on recruitment, retention, and strategic planning.

Back-to-back conference sessions on Maryland’s volunteer fire service offer insight into this critical public safety partnership.

Volunteer fire companies are a part of the national fabric and are at the heart of many communities. From a county government perspective, these centers are of cultural value, but also an integral part of the delivery of emergency services. Homeowners and businesses may take for granted the service of volunteers on which they rely.

For rural counties especially, a transition away from volunteer fire service will be a financial backbreaker, yet that is the option that counties struggling to recruit and retain volunteers would have to face. In two sessions at MACo’s Summer Conference, MACo explores best practices in volunteer recruitment and retention and strategic planning with the aim of supporting Maryland’s volunteer fire companies.

Date: Saturday, August 17, 2019

Session 1: Stoke the Fire: Volunteer Recruitment and Resources

Time: 9:00 am – 10:00 am

Description: According to the National Fire Department Registry from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, more than 60% of Maryland’s firefighters are volunteers. Persistent and worsening staffing shortages threaten these critical partners in fire response statewide. This session will examine staffing levels of volunteer fire companies and rescue squads in the state, and explore best practices for recruitment and retention of volunteers, including the efforts of other states to address and combat volunteer fire company and rescue squad staffing shortages.


  • The Honorable Steve Wantz, Commissioner President, Carroll County
  • Kate Tomanelli, Executive Director, Maryland State Firefighters Association 
  • Tracey Johnston, Fire & EMS Commission, Queen Anne’s County

Moderator: The Honorable Michael McKay, Maryland House of Delegates


Session 2: Sound the Siren: Maryland’s Fire Service Needs Help

Time: 10:15 am – 11:15 am

Description: The Maryland State Firefighters Association advises that there are 362 volunteer fire companies and approximately 28,000 volunteer firefighters in the state. Staffing and funding shortages among volunteer companies are not limited to one or two jurisdictions – they are statewide and worsening. This session will explain the landscape of volunteer and career fire service in Maryland. And, even as the idea of a full-fledged transition from volunteer to paid service may raise alarm, panelists will examine the contours of challenges faced in rural, suburban, and metropolitan volunteer fire companies and rescue squads and posit the best path toward resiliency for each.

Moderator: The Honorable Andrew Serafini, Maryland State Senate


  • Sam Goldwater, Strategic Planner, Singerly Fire Company, Cecil County 
  • Pete Mellits, Prince George’s County Fire Commissioner, 5th District, Morningside Volunteer Fire Department, Past President, Prince George’s County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association
  • Johnie Roth, Legislative Director, Maryland State Firemen’s Association

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: