Bowie Volunteer Fire Department officials say they’re pleased with early results of switching to an afternoon all-volunteer squad, but are still looking for a few good volunteers to fill the roster.
Volunteers are the only staff at Bowie Volunteer Fire Department’s Station 39 after 3 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends, said Jonathan Howard, a deputy chief for the department.
The station averages about 185 calls per month, according to fire department data.
“It’s been good,” Howard said. “The station has not failed on a call.”
Shifting to the volunteer-focused staff, which is supposed to work 128 of the 168 hours in a week, was motivated by changes in Prince George’s County’s fire/EMS union contract that requires at least four firefighters on duty at all times, said Mark Brady, county department spokesman.
Brady said stations had to choose between paid firefighters at all times, paid firefighters from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays with volunteers afterward or all volunteer all the time.
Howard said the decision to go all volunteer at Station 39 was based on the fire house’s central location to the BVFD’s other three stations. The other three stations have four full-time firefighters 24 hours a day, he said. BVFD has about 60 operational volunteers, and all those who respond to fire and medical calls now work at Station 39, he said.
Even though the volunteers have been centralized at Station 39, Howard said the fire department continues to look for new members. The department holds an open house every October, he said. Volunteers have families, careers and other lives, so having more workers available means more coverage at the station, he said.
“You can never have enough operational volunteers. If I had to pick, I’d say we need 500,” Howard said with a laugh.
County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said he was pleased with Station 39’s first month of volunteer-focused staffing. They’ve managed to provide service to the community and keep their staffing levels high, he said.
And while the cold months mean more calls for firefighters, Bashoor said he had confidence in Station 39.
“It is something they have been planning for,” Bashoor said. “So far they have been successful, and I don’t have any reason to believe it won’t continue.”
Howard said anyone interested in joining as an administrative or operational volunteer can contact the BVFD’s non-emergency line at 301-809-0122.
”We need people willing to sacrifice,” Howard said. “We need volunteers.”