March 22, 2011

Top volunteer firefighters resign from Burtonsville station

Burtonsville Volunteer Fire Chief Robert E. Ryan and four other senior volunteer officials resigned from their posts as Burtonsville volunteers Saturday while also requesting demotions from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service that oversees both career and volunteer firefighters countywide.

The move came in response to county fire and rescue service Chief Richard R. Bowers' Feb. 24 decision to transfer command of the Burtonsville station to career firefighters following complaints that the station's volunteers were mistreating their career counterparts, even urinating on the door handles of career firefighters' vehicles, said county fire and rescue spokesman Assistant Chief Scott Graham. Volunteer officials contested the complaints, saying those that were found to be substantive had been investigated and dealt with while also arguing that Bowers' action was illegal, said Burtonsville Volunteer Firefighter Department spokeswoman Tami Bulla.

The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is a combination service that includes both volunteer and career firefighters, but each of the county's 19 volunteer departments is technically an independent organization from the Montgomery County government. Bowers, a career official, is the chief of the county fire and rescue service, but he wields limited control over the day-to-day management of the different volunteer departments due to their independence, leading to some of the tension between career and volunteer officials.

Within the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, a master list called the Integrated Emergency Command Structure outlines the rank of every career and volunteer firefighter — from chief officers down to entry-level firefighters. The master list defines, based on the level of training, what kinds of calls each is capable of responding to, according to fire officials. Ryan and his colleagues requested demotions Saturday that placed them at the rank of master firefighters on this master list, Graham said.

After accepting the demotions, however, Ryan and the others resigned from the Burtonsville Volunteer Fire Department itself, which has its own independent membership list, Bulla said. SOURCE: Gazette

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