This is in response to Montgomery County Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association Chief David Dwyer's letter {"Volunteer Fire Service Is Working Just Fine," Maryland Weekly, July 12}. In his letter, Chief Dwyer states that the fire and rescue service had staffing problems in the past and that these problems were immediately addressed. He also states: "At no time, however, were our citizens in jeopardy or provided with less-than-adequate service."

Contrary to his statements, there are currently staffing problems in Montgomery County. On April 17, I testified before the Red Ribbon Committee, which was established by County Executive Sidney Kramer to review changes in the fire and rescue service and to address fire fighters' concerns. Chief Dwyer is a member of this committee, and he was present when I testified about the Kensington Volunteer Fire Department, which is facing the same problem as other volunteer fire departments within the county. For various reasons, it is having a difficult time recruiting and retaining a sufficient number of active volunteers to staff its fire stations.

Kensington fire stations 5 (Connecticut Avenue) and 21 (Veirs Mill Road) frequently have an insufficient number of firefighters in the station to staff the emergency equipment. When they are dispatched to an emergency and do not have enough personnel in the station, they sound the house siren to alert volunteers. If a sufficient number of volunteers do not arrive at the station within five minutes, the central fire department communications center dispatches the next closest fire unit, which may be some distance away.

At Kensington fire stations 5 and 21 there were 187 failures to respond during 1987 and 1988. All of Station 5's failures to respond during 1987 and 1988 occurred during weeknights and weekends when the station was staffed by volunteers. During this same time period the Chevy Chase Fire Station had no failures to respond and at the three Bethesda fire stations, units failed to respond to five emergency calls. These stations are staffed with county firefighters 24 hours each day.

Besides the possible failure of essential emergency equipment to respond, whenever the station siren is used to alert volunteers, emergency units will be delayed up to five minutes in responding. The failure to respond and delayed responses place firefighters, residents of Kensington, and their homes at unnecessary risk.

Kensington residents pay the same fire tax rate as residents in Bethesda and Chevy Chase: 29.3 cents per $100 assessed property value. The county provides residents of Chevy Chase and Bethesda with fully staffed fire departments. Residents of these communities know when they call for emergency assistance that units will respond immediately. The county government should provide all residents with the same emergency service. The county should ensure that Kensington fire stations are staffed 24 hours each day with an adequate number of qualified personnel, either career or volunteer.

JOSEPH F. VITA Vice President, Kensington Estates Civic Association Kensington