This is in response to the article about Chief Thomas Stommel of the District Heights Volunteer Fire Department and the department's junior volunteer firefighters who have been charged with arson {"Firefighter Says Criticism Dorve Volunteers to Arson," front page, Sept. 15}. I am a parent who would like to say that thanks to Chief Stommel, my youngest son is a paid firefighter in Prince George's County.

Both my sons were volunteers at District Heights in the early '80s -- my older son drove the ambulance and his brother was a fireman from 1981-1989. When my younger son was 15, I became widowed. He joined the firehouse at age 16, and for all those years, Chief Stommel kept my son under his wing and guided him in the right direction. Where might my son be now without Tommy Stommel?

Yes, Chief Stommel was strict with the younger volunteers at times, but he had to be, as I am sure he had to be with the volunteers who are charged with arson. My son was an officer at District Heights for a few years and also had to discipline young men. If the volunteers had gone along with the program and learned what Chief Stommel had to teach them, maybe in a few years they too could have been paid firefighters in this county.

PEGGY SHADE District Heights