As chief of one of the most highly regarded volunteer fire departments in Maryland, I feel I must respond to the half-truths and skewed statistics contained in Joseph Vita's letter {''Volunteer Fire Service: A Cause for Alarm,'' Maryland Weekly, Aug. 2}.

In this letter, Mr. Vita claims that the Kensington Volunteer Fire Department is understaffed. He does not, however, provide any figures to back up this contention. The fact is that Kensington Station 5, one of those Mr. Vita claims is understaffed, has more than 40 active volunteer firefighters and rescue personnel.

Mr. Vita says he told a red ribbon committee appointed by the county executive about concerns. He failed to state that the committee found no problems with Kensington's level of staffing.

Mr. Vita states that Kensington units ''failed to respond'' 187 times between 1987 and 1988. What he neglected to say is that most of these ''failures to respond'' were by secondary units. In other words, the role of the failed unit was as a backup to another unit that had already responded. Often in this situation, it is determined that the secondary unit is not needed (or is called off to another, primary response). In 1987 and 1988, Kensington stations on Viers Mill Road and Connecticut Avenue (the two stations Mr. Vita claims are understaffed) responded to more than 10,000 calls. No incident in which a primary unit did not respond to an emergency has been cited by Mr. Vita.

Mr. Vita compares the Kensington Volunteer Fire Department to the Bethesda and Chevy Chase Fire Departments -- which are staffed entirely by nonvolunteers. Mr. Vita points out that residents of the area served by the Kensington department pay the same fire tax rate as Bethesda residents. The comparison is a good one. Bethesda and Chevy Chase departments have fewer trucks and no ambulance service. Furthermore, Kensington trucks generally have six to seven firefighters aboard, while the Bethesda and Chevy Chase trucks carry only three to four persons. Even with a fuller complement of emergency personnel, Kensington's average response time is one of the best in the county.

The fact is that Mr. Vita's bias against volunteer firefighters stems from his employment with the International Association of Firefighters -- a union for paid fire personnel. Apparently in order to strengthen the union he works for, Mr. Vita would be willing to have his community give up the services provided by highly trained, devoted, public-minded volunteers -- or pay a great deal more for the excellent level of protection these volunteers provide.