Montgomery County Fire Chief Jim Stanton's letter {"Volunteer Fire Service: No Cause For Alarm," Maryland Weekly, Sept. 13} did not address the real issue of whether there are enough qualified personnel in the Kensington Volunteer Fire Department's Fire Station No. 5 (Connecticut Avenue) 24 hours a day. Proper staffing is essential for a prompt response to emergencies.

Chief Stanton stated that most failures to respond by Kensington emergency units were by secondary units that were dispatched to backup another unit that had already responded to an incident. However, according to the Montgomery County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, only the type and number of emergency units necessary to safely and effectively handle an emergency are dispatched to the fire or emergency scene.

The International City Management Association's (ICMA) publication "Managing Fire Services" explains that the successful extinguishment of a fire requires the quick response of various types of emergency equipment and about 16 trained firefighters. The ICMA book also recommends a maximum response time of three minutes in urban areas. The book explains that if firefighters are not working at the scene of a fire within seven minutes after it starts, dollar loss, injuries and square feet of fire spread are significantly increased.

There are often not enough qualified personnel at Kensington's Fire Station No. 5 to staff all emergency equipment. As a result, essential emergency equipment is often delayed in responding or fails to respond to emergency incidents.

There has already been some recognition of this problem. At the Sept. 13 meeting of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Commission, the Kensington Volunteer Fire Department requested three additional paid firefighters at the station on weeknights and weekends. The fire commission voted unanimously to endorse the request, which will be reviewed by the county Office of Management and Budget. Since this increase in staffing would not be effective until fiscal year 1992, it is important that the fire department ensure adequate coverage until that time. At the October commission meeting, the fire department will present a plan to ensure adequate staffing 24 hours a day.

Kensington is not the only Montgomery County fire department with staffing problems. The Takoma Park and Upper Montgomery County fire departments recently requested and received an emergency increase in staffing because of response problems.

My nine years of experience as a firefighter in Washington and my current employment with the International Association of Fire Fighters, Department of Occupational Health and Safety, have heightened my awareness of the importance of adequate staffing. My concern is the protection of my family and members of my community, as well as the safety of responding firefighters, in the event that emergency fire or rescue services are needed. It is imperative that the Montgomery County address fire department staffing problems. JOSEPH F. VITA Kensington