A call for parity for firefighters Anne Arundel County...

LETTERS

April 02, 2000

A call for parity for firefighters Anne Arundel County

I am an employee of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department and have been for 20 years. I have enjoyed my career as a firefighter and in the past have been proud to say I am an Anne Arundel County firefighter. However, over the past few years, I have lost my enthusiasm toward my position as a firefighter. Too many years have passed with lack of recognition for the job we do and love.

Firefighters traditionally turn the other cheek in the face of adversity. Lack of raises, benefits and parity with the police department have caused apathy in our department. Seeing other jurisdictions around us getting significant raises and better benefits has also caused morale to deteriorate.

Firefighters endure one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States, far more dangerous then police officers. Deaths to firefighters occur one to three times as frequently as for police. Firefighters must work longer hours then those worked by police 2 officers. On average, firefighters work 49 hours per week compared to 42 hours per week worked by police officers.

We are currently approximately 22 percent behind the salaries of the police department. Add that to the fact that we are 39 percent below the average base salary of the five surrounding counties, and you see why Anne Arundel County is the lowest paid department in the Baltimore-Washington metro area.

Is there any wonder why firefighters are leaving the county in flocks for better pay elsewhere? Once a year, I go to the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg to take a two-week training class. Firefighters from all over the United States attend these classes. Part of the learning experience is networking with these other firefighters. I am appalled to learn how far we are behind other fire departments in the United States when comparing salaries and benefits.

We are not a small department by any stretch of the imagination. This department has received many awards for its service. Many people think that the fire equipment, apparatus and tools are the department's biggest assets. They are wrong. Our department biggest assets are its employees. It is time that the asset is made to feel wanted and appreciated.

H. Lee Comwell, Severn

I am writing in support of our it professional firefighters in Anne Arundel County. I realize and appreciate their hard work and commitment. They put their own lives on the line every time they go to the rescue of the citizens of Anne Arundel County.

If other counties are paying their paramedics and firefighters more money and luring ours away after we spend all that money to train them, we are losing out twice.

I want to feel safe in my home, secure in the knowledge that then will always be a highly qualified paramedic and firefighter available to help me in the event I need them. Hopefully, that may never happen.

Please give the firefighters and paramedics the same benefits and equal pay as police officers.

Robert Milby, Deal

Your article "Overtime pay boosts income of firefighters" (March 30) does a great injustice to the men and women of the Fire Department.

Yes, it is true that overtime is paid often. And yes, certain individuals earned a lot of overtime.

But do you think we really en-joy spending more time away from our families than we already do?

Many work the overtime to supplement their salaries. But many others do not work overtime because they already work a second job or have children to watch while their spouses are at work. And the overtime we earn does go toward our pensions.

Anne Arundel County firefighters earn 39 percent less then their counterparts in the Baltimore/ Washington area based on salary studies.

Is the job we do in Anne Arundel County any less dangerous?

It's interesting that the same day in your paper there was an article on how the counties surrounding Baltimore City are "booming." Soon Anne Arundel County will have one-half million residents. Don't you think it's time to hire more firefighters and paramedics? Or will it still be cheaper to pay the overtime?

Also in that day's paper was a letter to the editor from one of our brothers with the Baltimore City Fire Department about pay parity between police and firefighters.

The firefighters of Anne Arundel County were promised by County Executive Janet Owens that there would be parIty between police and fire. She's the one who insisted on it. But I guess Anne Arundel's firefighters are not the only ones unappreciated by their government leaders.

Robert Kline, Glen Burnie

The writer is a lieutenant in the Anne Arundel Fire Department.

I have been employed by Anne Arundel County government as a firefighter for the past 13 years. I am writing because of my interest in remaining a county employee while trying to wait. for the firefighters to be compensated as they should be.

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