The Morningside ambulance on Suitland Road in Prince George's County responded to 3,627 calls for service last year. But now, a battle over staffing mandated by a new collective bargaining agreement could take it out of service Monday morning.
"They don't want the four career firefighters that we've offered them, so they've opted not to take any, but they also want us to remove the ambulance," says Mark Brady, spokesperson of the Prince George's County Fire and EMS.
It is a turf war of sorts. The Morningside department says it has enough volunteer firefighters to run its station, and it is a waste of county resources to put paid career firefighters there.
Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor delivered a letter to Morningside Volunteer Chief Michael White Thursday telling him the ambulance is staying, whether it is staffed for career firefighters or volunteers.
"He feels that the removal of that ambulance will impact the safety and welfare of the citizens of Morningside and the surrounding areas,” Brady says.
So the battle lines are drawn.
"Short of a court order, we are not leaving that station and we will not allow the ambulance to be taken out of service," says Brady.
Longtime resident Bernett Powell Sr. agrees with the Chief Bashoor, crediting the ambulance crew for helping him after a nasty fall.
If they take the ambulance away, Powell says people living nearby could be waiting much longer for emergency help.
"We've got a lot baby boomers in the area. We need this here for the community," Powell says.
Chief White remains steadfast. He says if the ambulance is not redeployed by 7 a.m. Monday, they will drive it to the Battalion Chief's headquarters in District Heights and drop it off.
Chief Bashoor says the volunteer chief faces a demotion to firefighter, and the station's service area will be severely limited if he tries to remove that ambulance.
Brady says four career firefighters will be at the Morningside station at 7 a.m. Monday for duty.
Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III released the following statement following the decision of the Board of Directors of the Morningside Volunteer Fire Department to remove a Prince George's Fire Department (PGFD) ambulance from their station:
"I am completely disappointed, and quite frankly, shocked at the decision of the Board of Directors of the Morningside Volunteer Fire Department to remove the Prince George's Fire Department ambulance from their station. This is the 10th busiest basic life support transport unit in the County. With their recent decision to refuse to staff an ambulance from their station, the Board of Directors of the Morningside Volunteers has compromised this community's safety. This is absolutely unacceptable.
"PGFD Chief Bashoor has my complete support in his refusal to remove these life-saving ambulance services unless ordered by courts. For the sake of the safety of our citizens in this community, I encourage the Morningside Volunteers to rethink their decision. I am committed to using the full power and resources of the executive branch of government to maintain our public safety capacity in this community. I want to thank both the Morningside Volunteers and our career PGFD Fire Fighters and paramedics who will continue to work together as we work with the Board of the Morningside Volunteers to resolve this problem quickly."
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