A Prince George's County Fire Service task force, appointed by the county executive office two years ago, has recommended that the county build seven new fire stations and more than triple the size of its staff during the next eight years.
The task force -- headed by County Council member David G. Hartlove, chief administrative officer Kenneth V. Duncan, and Fire Chief M. H. Estepp -- outlined its plan to improve the "effectiveness and efficiency of fire protection and rescue-service" in a 33-page report.
According to Hartlove, no price tag has been placed on the project.
The task force recommended that the fire department build one new station each year through 1985, but gave no exact street locations. Two stations would be built in the Largo-Kettering Enterprise area. The Laurel, Bowie, Clinton-Camp Springs, Melwood, and Baden to Patuxent River areas would get one station each.
To staff the new stations and compensate for manpower shortages at the other 48 stations in the country, the task force recommended that the volunteer program be substantially expanded.
"The task force is fully aware that the county's current manning requirements fall far short of adequately manning the current fleets," the study concluded.
Under the task force plan, the fire department would add 478 career firemen and 3,389 volunteers. At present the fire department is staffed by 261 career firemen and 603 volunteers.
According to a fire department spokesman, the volunteer ranks will have to increase more rapidly than those of career personnel because volunteers work only part-time. Volunteers now account for 70 percent of the county manpower, usually working on weekday nights and weekends.
To attract more volunteer recruits, the task force suggested a major new incentive scheme. In addition to a new recruitment program, the committee recommended that volunteers get a 20 percent rebate on county real estate taxes, improve fire station housing facilities, free license tags and special job preference if they want to join the regular force.
The study group, given its original charge by former County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr. in 1977, sought ways to correct deficiencies pinpointed in a Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission study of the fire department.
County Executive Hogan has endorsed the task force report, but warned in an introductory letter that the revenue pinch caused by TRIM, the county tax-limiting measure, might slow down implementation of the plan.
"One should realize that the achievement of these goals for adequate fire/rescue service may not be feasible in the foreseeable future due to TRIM. However, every effort should be made to provide sources of revenue to reach as many of the recommended levels of fire/rescue service as possible," Hogan commented.
The County Council has already advised its staff to begin studying ways to implement the task force report, but is also concerned about the impact of TRIM on the plan.
"We don't know how much the improvement program will cost," said Hartlove. "What the task force did was come up with what it thought the county would need in additional fire service protection in the next few years. We saved money wherever we could, but I don't think anybody really knows what effect TRIM will have on the final development of the plan."
County Council Chairman William B. Amonett has suggested that the county try to implement now the task force proposals that do not require substantial amounts of money, such as the expanded volunteer recruitment program.