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  • Rick Bergmann

Update on Beltsville Volunteer Fire Department

It’s hard to believe that a month ago we were informed that career firefighters were being moved out of the Beltsville Volunteer Fire Station 831 and reassigned to other stations in Prince George’s County. The reason we were given was that there were too many safety hazards at station 831 for the firefighters to be safe. We were “reassured” at the time that it was only temporary, but we knew differently.

            This all began when the Beltsville News received four anonymous messages from people who said they were career firefighters who had been told that they needed to bid for other positions in the county because they were going to be moved in February to other locations. Also, they informed us that the volunteers had not been told of the plan. This meant they were trying to move the firefighters from our station without informing either the community that relies on them or the volunteers who work with them.

            Now anyone with common sense can tell you that if someone is being asked to look for another position, the change is not intended to be temporary, but that is exactly what Prince George’s Fire Chief Tiffany Green attempted to tell a crowd of approximately 200 residents of Beltsville at a meeting on January 24. Chief Green claimed a single complaint from a career firefighter was brought to her attention in December of 2023 and that a week later an inspection was done, and the building was deemed unsafe. But, strangely enough, they weren’t going to move people for another two months. Something smelled fishy, and it wasn’t the supposed diesel fumes that were flooding the building, making it uninhabitable for career personnel.

            After the January 24 meeting, a process to get to the bottom of the surprising attempt to remove firefighters from our local station began. It culminated in a meeting three weeks later where Beltsville received an early Valentine’s Day gift: the career firefighters would remain at the Beltsville Station!

            The number one reason we were able to push back on Chief Green’s plan was because of you, our readers, who saw our pleas for help on social media and reached out to your representatives as well as Chief Green and her boss, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. Without that ground level support, the outcome could have been very different.

            Reason number two was our core group of community leaders who left no stone unturned and no media outlet alone. They were able to gather information that showed that Chief Green and her team were drastically exaggerating the issues at Station 831 in Beltsville. Station 831 on Prince George’s Avenue is an older building that does need repairs, but it isn’t uninhabitable. We learned that an insurance inspection had taken place in October of 2023, approximately two months before the complaint, and that there were no critical issues found. Also, we saw a summary of the county inspection report as well as the fire department's response to all of the issues in the report. They showed that while there were some needs that warranted repair, the majority of what Chief Green’s office was claiming was at best exaggerated, or at worst, completely false. We were also able to find years of capital improvement plans where Beltsville Station 831 wasn’t included in any of these over a number of years. Also, we were able to get a look at the capital improvement plan for 2024, and Beltsville wasn’t on it at all.

            The third and final reason we were able to get the fire chief to change course was a media campaign. Community leaders contacted local news outlets including NBC4, WJLA7, Fox5, WTOP, DCNewsNow, and others and asked for media coverage highlighting this attempt by the county to remove our firefighters. Most of the coverage did not paint the Fire Chief’s office in a good light. We pointed out the discrepancies between the insurance report and Chief Green’s report, the lack of Beltsville being included in repairs for years, and the total absence of Beltsville on this year’s improvement plan. Something wasn’t adding up, and we hammered that point home.

            So, where are we now? At the February 13th meeting, we were informed that the plan for Beltsville was now to install temporary trailers for our career staff to work out of while repairs were made to the building. We were told that the firefighters would not be moved at all and would remain on-site 24/7. There needs to be some assessments done to see what repairs are needed, and that should take approximately six weeks. We won this battle, but it isn’t over yet. Until we see the results from the last meeting, we will be keeping a close eye on Chief Green and her department. We will make sure that all that has been stated will happen and that our firefighters get the support that they deserve. I have spoken to many of you over these last few weeks and heard stories about how the firefighters helped you and loved ones through accidents, deaths, emergencies, and more. It is obvious that Beltsville Supports Its Firefighters!

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