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Maryland firefighter accused of threatening to cut off a water supply during a blaze |

Maryland firefighter accused of threatening to cut off a water supply during a blaze

The Washington Post
| Friday, January 11, 2019 10:38 a.m

Two firefighters have been temporarily banned from responding to emergency runs as the department investigates radio transmissions in which a firefighter threatened to cut off another crew’s water supply during a call in Capitol Heights, Maryland.

The firefighters – one career and one volunteer – have been confined to administrative duty as the department investigates possible “workplace violence,” said Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department.

The investigation is the latest in the ongoing turf battle between career and volunteer firefighters in Prince George’s County, which has seen crews accuse each other of sabotage or assault.

The investigation stems from a Dec. 29 house fire, Brady said. A crew from the mostly career-staffed station in District Heights was the first at the scene, with the all-volunteer crew from Kentland arriving second, Brady said.

Typically, engines that arrive first pull an attack line, with water supplied from the firetruck until crews arriving later can connect them into more water from a hydrant. But, based on the radio transmissions, the additional water from the hydrant did not come fast enough for the first engine.

“I need that water,” a firefighter from the District Heights engine tells the Kentland crew again about a minute after his initial request, according to radio transmissions captured by fire blog Statter911. “I am going to put a hose clamp on your attack line.”

Shortly after, a firefighter from the Kentland engine is heard on the radio demanding that a clamp be removed.

“Engine 833 to command, have 26’s driver take the hose clamp off our attack line,” the transmissions indicate.

Dave Statter, a retired volunteer firefighter in Prince George’s County who runs Statter911, said the District Heights firefighter heard threatening to clamp Kentland’s hose was likely concerned the Kentland crew made it a priority to run its own hose line to put out the fire, rather than do its primary job of ensuring a water supply from a hydrant for the first arriving engine.

Brady, who confirmed the radio transmissions from Statter911 were authentic, said there was no physical altercation and two firefighters were immediately removed from emergency operations that night.

“This situation had no impact whatsoever on extinguishing the fire,” Brady said.

No one was injured and one man was displaced in the fire that started in the kitchen of a single-family home, Brady said.

If Kentland’s water supply were indeed cut off or if Kentland delayed in getting water to the first engine, firefighters inside the home were placed in jeopardy, Statter said.

“If we’re to believe the radio traffic, he’s basically saying, ‘If I don’t get water, you’re not getting water,’ which is really, really childish,” Statter said of the firefighter who threatens to clamp Kentland’s hose. “Whatever the provocation … it does not justify shutting down the hose line of people in a fire.”

The union representing career firefighters and the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department declined to comment on the matter.

Statter said the rivalry between career and volunteer firefighters goes back 50 years and is rooted to similar feuds dating to the early days of the fire service when crews would compete to put out a blaze first.

In 2016, then-fire chief Marc Bashoor had stern words for the department after safety gear for career medics and firefighters appeared to be intentionally damaged. That same year, two volunteer firefighters were charged with assault and misconduct in office after they were accused of fighting with another firefighter over who should be first to enter a burning home. The volunteer firefighters were later acquitted after a jury trial.

“Prince George’s has a wonderful fire department with both career and volunteers,” Statter said, “but this rivalry and the fighting does not serve the public well.”

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