Prince George’s Fire Chief Marc Bashoor showed off some new pieces of equipment on Wednesday arrayed next to the county government building in Upper Marlboro. It’s an annual fire department show and tell, taking place just moments before the council takes a look at the fire department’s proposed budget. The politicians get to admire the equipment, and some even climbed one of the ladders.
Bashoor called the $5.8 million in purchases, including two heavy-duty ladder trucks and nine command vehicles, a “historic” moment for the county and thanked the council and the administration of County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) for their support.
But Bashoor didn’t want to talk about a lingering issue: staffing on the trucks.
The Baker administration this year cancelled one recruit class of 35 prospective firefighters to save money, and delayed another class of 35 until June. A third class of 18 was trained this year with an outside grant.
Asked about the cancellations, Bashoor declined to even acknowledge they had occurred. He would only say that a training class had been postponed until the beginning of June.
Council chairman Andrea C. Harrison (D-Springdale) did not shy from the issue. The council will be looking for ways to beef up staffing in the fire department, she said.
“They have been understaffed for years,” she said.
Meanwhile, the county is soon to send the council a negotiated contract with the firefighters union that will restore some raises that had been postponed for the past few years.