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PGFD Recruits Run for Fallen Firefighter

On June 10, Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department Career Recruit Schools (CRS) 42 and 43 undertook yet another valiant effort, this time for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF). Forty-two recruits, along with two Fire/EMS Training Academy staff members and three of the staff’s family members, participated in a run across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. The group ran 4.39 miles from Maryland to Virginia and back.

Career Recruit School 43 organized the run to honor fallen Volunteer Fire Fighter Mark Falkenhan, who had been a career member of the Baltimore County Fire Department from 1990 to 2006. On the evening of Wednesday, January 19, 2011, Falkenhan was a member of the crew that responded to an apartment fire. The fire was knocked, and crews moved to the second and third floors to search for possible victims. In an article by WBAL, Baltimore County Fire Chief John J. Hohman stated “A flashover occurred. One firefighter escaped successfully, while Falkenhan was injured. He was transported to the hospital, where, tragically, he succumbed to his injuries.” The 43 year-old father of two was most recently employed with the U.S. Secret Service, where he helped train agents in search and rescue techniques.

Fire/EMS Department Training Academy instructors initially became aware of the philanthropic spirit of their recruits when they donated blood for an injured firefighter. The recruits also researched and wrote a paper on cancer among firefighters, which was picked up by an established firefighter’s cancer research center. Academy instructors, learning of the recruit’s plan to run across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, challenged them to turn their effort into a fundraiser. Each student raised at least $20 and participated in a food drive that generated over $500, totaling their earnings to $2,000.

In a ceremony that was held at the Fire/EMS Training Academy on Monday, June 13, the recruits presented the NFFF with a monetary donation, which was accepted by Volunteer Fire Fighter Falkenhan’s wife, Gladys. During the ceremony, the recruits revealed that they had purchased a brick at the National Firefighters Memorial Walk of Honor, which was inscribed “In memory of Mark Falkenhan, P.G.F.D. C.R.S. #43.” In addition, they read Mrs. Falkenhan and Cathy Hedrick, a representative from the NFFF, a letter they had written detailing what they had learned from their experience. “Through recruit school we are taught so many things not to do, but while learning about the man your husband was, we have learned what to do,” Recruit Basset read.

Career Recruit School 43’s philanthropy, hard work, and commitment to the NFFF touched everyone attending the ceremony. Their efforts prompted Gladys Falkenhan to say “As hard as it was, he died doing what he trained for all of those years.” Speaker Cathy Hedrick addressed the recruits, stating, “No other fire department has made the commitment or has been as dedicated to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and safety as you have.” The heartfelt presentation revealed the frightening possibilities of a career as a firefighter. It also taught the recruits how to be safe and to always remember Prince George’s County Fire/ EMS Department’s motto “Safety First! Everyone Goes Home.”

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PGFD Community Outreach Coordinator to be Awarded a "Star of Life"

On Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 10:00 AM, the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) will present its annual Star of Life Awards to honor EMS personnel, citizens, and EMS programs statewide. The awards will be presented in the Miller Senate Office Building, President’s Conference Room, East I, 11 Baden Street, Annapolis, MD.

Our very own Teresa Ann Crisman, Community Developer, coordinator of the Community Outreach for the Fire/EMS Department has been selected to receive one of the top awards to be presented by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

Members of the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department have long recognized Teresa’s skills and unique manner in delivering life safety and fire prevention education and apparently the State of Maryland has recognized her skills as well. Crisman will receive the MIEMSS Star of Life for “Maryland EMS for Children Award.” The award states;

“For her tireless efforts in reducing injuries in children through life-safety education in Prince George’s County and across the state.

She has led major activities that included car seat checks, child passenger safety training, fire prevention school programs, and Safe Kids events. She serves as Chair of the Risk Watch Task Force.”

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Fire/EMS Stations Participate in "All in for Alabama" Relief Effort

The Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department is proud to assist in a relief effort "All in for Alabama." Citizens and residents can drop off items that will be provided directly to relief support agencies in Alabama. Citizens and residents can simply go the their local fire/EMS station in Prince George's County and we will gladly accept your donation. This effort will last through May 24, 2011.

Parts of our Nation have suffered unprecedented destruction from a series of natural disasters. Numerous relief efforts are underway and the combined resources of our career and volunteer Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department has been asked to assist. "All in for Alabama" has requested that our stations serve as collection points for our citizens that want to donate items. Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor, along with Andrew Pantelis, President of the IAFF Local 1619, and Bill Smith, President of the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, wholeheartedly support this effort and we have agreed to open our doors to accept these items.

Starting Thursday, May 12, 2011, our community based Fire/EMS Stations and the Union House in Bowie will be open to accept donations on behalf of the "All in for Alabama" relief effort.

Donations will be accepted through May 24, 2011. The coordinating relief effort will come to each station starting on this date and will deliver the donations later that week. The supplies and donations will go directly to shelters across Alabama that are serving those affected. Please help us support our efforts for so many in need, as Alabama has experienced the most devastating tornadoes in their history.
Any questions should be directed to relief effort coordinator, Lucy Stefanelli, at 240-253- 3576 or by email at with Alabama in the subject line.

A message from "All in for Alabama"

Goal: We are challenging everyone to donate needed items for the relief efforts in Alabama! The supplies and donations will go directly to shelters across Alabama that are serving the victims! Please help us in supporting so many in need, as Alabamians have experienced the most devastating tornado's in Alabama history.
Items in Need

Water, Canned Foods, Gatorade, Blankets, Packs of Underwear & Socks, Toiletry Items, Baby, Clothes & Formula, Baby Diapers & Wipes, Hand Sanitizer, Trash Bags, Batteries, Flashlights, Re-usable Grocery Bags, Paper/, Plastic Plates & Utensils, First-aid Supplies, Tents, Work Gloves
Power Bars, Tarps

*Donations can be dropped off at any Fire/EMS station in Prince George's County and the Firefighter Union House in Bowie. If you can’t make it to one of those locations please contact Lucy Stefanelli to make other arrangements*

Lucy Stefanelli 240-253-3576 or

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Elected Officials, Community Leaders, and Media Become Fire Fighters for a Day

On April 29th, the Prince George's County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Association hosted a Fire Ops 101 Program at the University of Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute in College Park.  Fire Ops 101 was created by the International Association of Fire Fighters with the hope to educate policy makers on our profession by putting them in situations that fire fighters and paramedics face everyday.

Joined by community leaders, government workers, and members of the media, Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, Prince George's County Council Members Mary Lehman, Eric Olson, Andrea Harrison, Karen Toles, and Mel Franklin engaged in drills consisting of extinguishing a vehicle fire with a hose, observing an indoor live burn exercise in room where temperatures reached in excess of 500 degrees, and navigating through a dark confined space training maze.  Additionally, members of the Prince George's County Fire and EMS Department demonstrated a cardiac arrest response and fire response scenarios for participants to observe.

"I am used to putting out fires every day, just not so literally," said County Executive Rushern Baker. "I want to thank IAFF Local 1619 for putting together a wonderful event that made every participant realize the sacrifice our heroes in the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department undertake on behalf of our safety every day."

Nothing else gives citizens and elected officials a taste of the fire service like experiencing Fire Ops 101.  This day shows them the smoke, the sweat, the adrenaline rush and the physical stress and strain that emergency responders face daily, all while exposing them to the complex issues of the fire service, such as the need for staffing, adequate equipment, and presumptive health.  Spending a hands-on day as an emergency responder is one of the most effective ways to learn about our job.

"We are so pleased that our Lieutenant Governor, County Executive, and County Council stood on the front lines with us today to learn and understand the issues that are affecting the fire and rescue service," said Andrew Pantelis, President, Prince George's County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association, "Their participation in these intense drills demonstrates their commitment in making Prince George's County a safer place for their constituents and our members."

The Fire Ops event could not have been such a success without the assistance of our members who devoted countless hours of their own time, the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute for providing an outstanding facility and staff, and the Prince George's County Fire and EMS Department and the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services for allowing utilization of apparatus and equipment. 


County Executive Rushern Baker, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, IAFF President Andrew Pantelis (L to R)

Fire Ops Event Video From The Patch

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IAFF Local 1619 Firefighters and Paramedics Donate Smoke Alarms

Every firefighter knows that a working smoke alarm provides residents with an early alert of a fire inside their home, this is especially important when everyone is asleep, a time when the most home fire fatalities occur. A working smoke alarm improves the chances of you and your family surviving a home fire by 50%. With an early warning of a fire and the fact that everyone inside the home is safe outside also increases the probability that firefighters will be able to stay safe and go home at the end of the shift without injury.

The Prince George's County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Association donated over 100 smoke alarms to the Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department today. These smoke alarms will be added to the inventory that firefighters provide free-of-charge to our citizens and residents. One duty a firefighter performs includes going door-to-door throughout their local communities checking to ensure that everyone has a working smoke alarm. If an alarm is found to be non-working; a fresh battery is provided and this will often correct the issue. There are times when an alarm is found to be old and in poor condition and there are times when a home is found with no smoke alarm at all. In these cases, firefighters will install a new working smoke alarm for you and then demonstrate how to test the alarm monthly and change the battery at least once-a-year.

Local 1619 President Andrew Pantelis stated, “A working smoke alarm should be considered the most important item in every home. We are proud to be able to provide new smoke alarms that will protect our citizens, residents and our firefighters.”

Acting Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor accepted the donation at the Fire/EMS Department Headquarters in Largo and stated, “I accept these smoke alarms on behalf of the men and women of our Fire/EMS Department and for our citizens and residents. We must keep safety first and ensures everyone goes home.”

Citizens and residents of Prince George’s County can contact our Safety First Smoke Alarm Line at 301-864-SAFE (7233) and request a smoke alarm. A firefighter will arrange a convenient time to come to your home and install a new working smoke alarm; free of charge.

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Prince George's County Receives Federal Grant for Communications Equipment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin and U.S. Representatives Steny Hoyer, Chris Van Hollen, and Donna Edwards today announced Prince George’s County Fire/EMS was awarded $1,267,200 in federal grant funding through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program to upgrade its fleet with state-of-the-art communications equipment. As a member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Mikulski fights each year to increase federal funding for the fire grants program. Senator Cardin is a member of the Finance and Budget committees.

“I know how important this funding is to Maryland communities – often it’s the difference between life and death. First responders protect our homes and communities, and the federal government has a responsibility to protect them by providing them with the tools they need to do their jobs safer and smarter,” Senator Mikulski said. “Every day when our first responders report for duty, they don’t know what they will face. That’s why I fight every year for the equipment, training, and staffing our protectors and communities deserve.”

“Now more than ever, we need to make sure that our first responders have the resources they need to protect our families and communities,” Senator Cardin said. “From fires to natural disasters to possible terrorist threats, these brave men and women put their lives on the line for all of us. Federal investment in our first responders is vital because we must ensure that they have the equipment and training they need to protect us from harm and to perform their jobs safely and efficiently.”

Prince George’s County Fire/EMS will use the grant to purchase approximately 300 mobile data terminals (MDTs), improving communication among Prince George’s County first responders and increasing interoperability with other jurisdictions. MDTs are computer-like devices that provide electronic information about the location and nature of an emergency, as well as information about any special considerations or hazards. For more information, please contact Mark Brady, Public Information Officer, at 301-883-7154.

AFGP grants fund firefighting equipment, personal protection equipment, training, firefighting vehicles, firefighter/first responder safety projects, and staffing recruitment and retention, as well as public fire safety education.

Since 2001, Maryland fire departments and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) units have received more than $95 million in AFGP funding, more than $17 million of which has gone to fire departments and EMS units in Prince George’s County.

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IAFF 4th District Vice President Invites You To An Orioles Game

IAFF 4th District Vice President Bill Taylor would like to invite all IAFF Local 1619 members and their guests to the Baltimore Orioles vs. Toronto Blue Jays game on Saturday, June 4th at 7PM.

IAFF 4th District Vice President Bill Taylor wishes to thank the IAFF Locals for their continued support as he kicks off his re-election campaign for 2012.

A pre-game party, beginning at 3:00 p.m., will be held at IAFF Local 734's Union Hall (1202 Ridgely Street Baltimore, MD 21230), with plenty of food and drinks.

Tickets are $25.00 each and include both the pre-game party and tickets to the game. If you wish to purchase tickets, please contact PFFMD Vice President Jeffrey Buddle via e-mail address at

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17th Annual Colea Benevolent Golf Tournament

On June 6th, the Prince George's County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Association will host the 17th Annual Frank Colea Benevolent Golf Tournament at the Bowie Golf and Country Club.

Proceeds from the Golf Tournament and the Colea Benevolent Fund are used solely to support Fire Fighters, Paramedics, and other members of the Public Safety community who are called upon to protect our community from the dangers of fire, accidental injury and illnesses, natural disaster and acts of terrorism. Your contribution is used in support of our First Responders who have suffered from burn injuries, hazardous exposures, chronic illnesses and bereavement services.

The golf tournament is the primary source of financial support for the Colea Benevolent Fund. The overwhelming success of the tournament is made possible by the generous and caring support provided by organizations and individuals such as you. We hope that you will participate in this most worthwhile charity. This is your opportunity to support the Fire Fighters, Paramedics, and other Public Safety Officers in our area who give so much.

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Members Participate in September 11th Memorial Stair Climb

On Wednesday, April 6, 2011, Acting Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor and 24 recruit firefighters from Prince George's County, participated in the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.  The event was held in conjunction with the Congressional Fire Services Institute and held at the Washington Hilton in NW Washington, DC.

Only 343 firefighters could participate in the event, the same number of firefighters that made the ultimate sacrifice on September, 11, 2001.  Thanks to Dave Statter of and crew for providing the video about the event.

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100TH Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

March 25, 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire which occurred in the City of New York. In that fire, 146 victims perished, many having leapt to their deaths in order to escape the unbearable heat of the flames. The victims most of whom were Italian or East European Jewish immigrant women worked in what was a sweatshop manufacturing women's blouses. This fire is among the 20th deadliest single building fires ever to occur in the United States according to the National Fire Protection Association.

The members of the Prince George's County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association, honor the memory of these brave working women and men who lost their lives, or who were injured, or otherwise had their lives changed that fateful day in March 1911 because of the Triangle Fire. We realize from their sacrifice that important advances in workplace safety were made and those advances continue to contribute presently in the 21st century.

As a local of the International Association of Firefighters, the members of the Prince George's County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association are a committed partner and advocate for fire safety in the workplace, in the home, or wherever people gather together in the County. While we work diligently to prevent the occurrence of fire or other hazardous events our members also equally committed to providing the best possible professional service and care when summoned for any type of emergency situation.

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PGFD takes Second Place in the Burn Center Hockey Tournament

Congratulations to Team PGFD for playing great hockey in this weekends DCFD Burn Center Hockey Tournament. The Hockey Tournament was played at The Ice House in Beltsville, Maryland.

PGFD played outstanding hockey throughout the weekend and into the Championship game. They skated a great game against Eastern Ohio but came up short by a final score of 9-6. Team PGFD finished in second place which is the highest of local area teams.

Be sure to come out again next weekend on Sunday April 10th at The Ice Gardens at 1:00pm for Team PGFD's game against the Washington Capitals Alumni.

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Several Members to be Honored at Public Safety Valor Awards

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IAFF General Secretary Treasurer Emeritus Vincent Bollon Laid to Rest

On Monday April 4th, with a perfect blend of fire fighter and Catholic traditions, IAFF General Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus Vincent J. Bollon was laid to rest at Saint Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx, New York. 

Hundreds of IAFF leaders and members gathered as a procession lead by FDNY's Emerald Society Pipes and Drums and FDNY's Engine 343 escorted Bollon and his family to Saints Philip and James Catholic Church in St. James, New York. His Mass of Christian Burial included the scripture readings by Bollon's daughters, Suzanne and Chrysee Bollon.

In his words of remembrance, IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger said that Bollon's contributions were plentiful and profound. "How do you describe the 50 years of service that Vinnie gave in just a few phrases? How do you define this man in the short time we have this morning?" Schaitberger asked.

"You just can't because of the profound mark he made in so many, many ways far exceeds the ability to give fair reflection and appreciation."

Bollon joined the FDNY in 1959, fulfilling his ambition to be a New York City fire fighter. During his fire fighting career he served in the busiest fire station in the Bronx and as a fire officer in the busiest fire station in Harlem. For his heroic demonstration of courage without regard for his own live, Bollon was awarded the FDNY's Thomas F. Crimmins medal and the Albert S. Johnston medal after saving civilian lives.  In addition, on nine separate occasions, he was presented meritorious service citations from his department.

But, he was destined to be a union leader. "His union journey was just as -- and by most accounts -- even more successful than his fire service career, becoming nothing less than a legendary labor leader in the city of New York," said Schaitberger.

He continued, "Our entire International union was blessed by his extraordinary leadership as our General Secretary-Treasurer for 21 years, the second longest serving principal officer in our union's 93-year history. His impact on our lives, his influence on our profession and on our union will never be forgotten."

Bollon was first elected to union office in 1975 as the Financial Recording Secretary for Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) Local 94. After his promotion to Lieutenant in 1977, he continued his union service to Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) Local 854 and was first elected to the Local 854 Executive Board in 1978 and served as the President of Local 854 for eight years.

In 1988, Bollon was elected IAFF General Secretary-Treasurer, a position he maintained until his retirement in January 2010. He will be remembered for keeping the union financially stable while looking for outside financial resources so that the membership did not have to foot the bill for all union expenses such as building renovations.

Bollon died at the age of 77 in his home in Fairfax County, Virginia. He leaves his wife, Linda; his children Janice and her husband Ron Roveto, Suzanne Bollon, Chrysee Bollon, and Kathleen and her husband Walter Scott; and his grandchildren Jennifer, Steven, Matthew, Nicholas, Caitlin, and Brianne.

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Fire Ops 101 Scheduled for April 29th

The Prince George’s County Professional Fire Fighters & Paramedics Association has long advocated the appropriate number of fire fighters and EMS personnel, as well as mobile resources to assure safe, efficient, and effective operation on the scene of a fire or medical emergency.

Our organization, in conjunction with the Prince George’s County Fire Department and the Maryland Fire Rescue Institute, is conducting a one-day fire ground operations orientation for civilians including elected public officials, department heads, community leaders and representatives of the media. This event will be held Friday April 29, 2011 from 8:00am – 2:00pm at the Maryland Fire Rescue Institute in College Park.

This program will include actually suiting up in fire fighter protective clothing, donning self contained breathing apparatus and actually going inside a real fire to experience first hand the environment in which fire fighters work. Obviously, this will be a controlled situation, but will nevertheless provide an opportunity to see and feel what fire fighters deal with on a daily basis. It promises to be a very exciting and informative day.

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Baker 2010 Transition Report for Public Safety Released

Baker 2010 Transition Report - Public Safety

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Members Train on Mobile Mayday Simulator

The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department (PGFD) has developed and is currently evaluating a mobile simulator for “MAYDAY” in-serve training for firefighters. This training was developed in part due to a Safety and Investigative Report (SIT) that reviewed circumstances involving a house fire that critically injured a firefighter. The SIT identified several contributing factors that led to the firefighters injuries, including, lack of training and experience in firefighter survival skills.

The PGFD has continually made available and conducted several training programs including Fireground Survival Training and other similar programs in an effort to make these survival skills second nature. Typically, in order to simulate an actual fireground situation, training has been held at the Fire/EMS Department’s Training Academy in Cheltenham; located in the southern portion of the county and is not conducive, geographically, to in-service training programs for a large portion of stations in central and northern parts of the county.

The Technical Services Battalion, under the command of Major Adon Snyder, has developed a mobile “mayday” simulator, accompanied by a classroom lecture, which can be easily brought to any Fire/EMS station or training facility. A 40-minute classroom session with power point presentation and practical evolution comprise this training program. The practical portion starts with participants raising their heart rate to about 140, a rate consistent with response and initial activity at an incident scene. It is also the heart rate where decision making could be adversely affected. Raising the heart rate is accomplished by participants donning full personal protective equipment (PPE) and self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) then carries a stand-pipe pack for approximately 5 to 10 minutes. The firefighter then places their cloth covered face piece on and begins to breathe air. The firefighter, with no visibility, is then instructed to follow a 100 foot section of hoseline. The firefighter follows the hoseline and is led up a ramp and then up steps to a simulated second floor and then experience a sudden floor collapse.

The firefighter, following General Orders and valuable lessons learned in the classroom portion of the drill, must then demonstrate the correct survival skills and mayday procedure.

The mobile mayday simulator was constructed inside of a fire department utility box truck. The conversion of the interior box of the utility truck includes elements required for participants to ascend steps onto an upper floor landing and a collapsible floor which will allow participants to feel the unexpected jolting experience of a floor collapse. The firefighter has been previously instructed to ensure their SCBA and PPE are still in place and then transmit, by way of their portable radio, a correct MAYDAY message.

The drill is designed not only for firefighters but also incident commanders that will receive the radio mayday message and act accordingly. Scenarios can be modified to include non-working radios, dislodged facepiece, etc. The mobile mayday simulator has been used at select stations in order to collect data and evaluate the program. The program has received very positive feedback from both evaluators and participants. A train-the-trainer program is now being developed and will soon be made available to all personnel.

Acting Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor has high praise for the development and implementation of the training module. He stated, “This training will be beneficial to everyone that participates. We will be protecting and saving ourselves. Remember; Safety First ensures everyone goes home.”

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Promotion Ceremony to be Held at Florian Hall

The Prince George's County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Association will be hosting a Fire/EMS Department Promotional and Recognition Ceremony to be held on Thursday, March 24, 2011, at 7:00 p.m. at Florian Hall, 13701 Old Jericho Park Road, Bowie, Maryland (See Invitation Below).

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County Executive and Fire Chief Host Press Conference About Multiple Fires

On Sunday, February 20, 2011, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker and Fire Chief Marc Bashoor provided comments concerning the wind driven incidents from the day before.  Saturday, February 19, 2011, is being called one of the busiest days in the departments history.

At the conclusion of the 1:00 pm media briefing the County Executive thanked some of the firefighters that had worked at the Van Dusen fire and then lead a contingent of public safety officials and media on a tour of damaged areas.


While elected leaders have had unified praise for the efforts of firefighters, County Executive Baker has already raised a concern he intends to examine.

"Clearly in terms of resources, manpower and equipment, this is one of the things we're going to look at in the budget year," Baker says. "We did have firefighters called back to service, but a lot of times we didn't have enough people or the apparatus they needed to take out to these fires."

The County Executive continued in his statement "I want to say how lucky we are and fortunate and blessed that there were no fatalities here," he says. "I want to commend the men and women who not only went out to these fires and put them out but also the people who came in and worked all night to get this under control."

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Thank You from Fire Chief Bashoor

The wind and fire events of the past 36 hours have been unprecedented and truly historic for the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department. At the height of events, the PGFD had nearly 600 Fire/EMS personnel engaged in operational or support activities from one end of the County to the other, and everywhere in between. This included nearly 90 mutual aide personnel from the District of Columbia, the Maryland Counties of; Queen Anne, Cecil, Carroll, Caroline, Washington, Charles, St Mary’s, Calvert, Anne Arundel, Howard, Montgomery, and Baltimore City, the Virginia jurisdictions of; Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax, along with private tankers from the state of West Virginia. During this period nearly 900 calls for service were received by Public Safety Communications (PSC), with incoming equipment distributed to a Northern Area Command and a Southern Area Command for deployment.

As incident after incident overwhelmed available resources, and for the first time in recent memory, a full 1/3 of the career force was recalled to duty in three stages. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was opened and activated prior to noon. Command staff was ordered to work, to assist at Public Safety Communications, on incident scenes, and as command and control staff at the EOC. This was quickly followed by a recall of the career day-work personnel, then eventually by ‘A’ shift personnel.

While the Department has fought many large wild fires in the past, rarely if ever has the Department responded so professionally and responsibly to so many significant and long-term events at one time, under the gun of 50 m.p.h. winds. Although not fully inclusive, these events (most of which began and operated subsequent in the first 12 hours) included substantial or complete destruction of 12 or more occupied homes, 12 or more abandoned/unoccupied homes, and 10 or more sheds, garages, barns, or other outdoor structures. At least one roof was blown off a home, while multiple “routine” house fires turned into local conflagrations, and a dumpster fire ended up burning through the roof of the Burlington Coat Factory in Laurel. The largest wild-fires, scorching nearly 1,000 acres, were the “Chalk Point Fire”, the “Van Dusen Fire”, and the “Piscataway Fire”. The stories I have heard are harrowing at least – from the Station 841 crews close-call, having to abruptly abandon their position in brush while breathing air, to the total destruction of the brush truck from Station 836, to the thousands of feet of sacrificed hose and hand equipment, to the multiple house fires in the College Park/Branchville area with underground gas leaks. Thankfully, we suffered only three minor injuries among the nearly 600 responders – an impressive measure of your effort to keep “Safety First”.

For our officers: your training and education teaches you that you will have the opportunity to be leaders, or to be led. While we were not perfect by any means, many of you proved yourselves as leaders during these events. It is incumbent upon us now to learn from these events as a whole, and to pass on our lessons for the benefit of our improvement and that of others. I encourage all company officers to immediately hold hot-wash after action reviews (AAR) with your crews, while the Department will schedule a series of officer level AAR’s in the coming week. I visited with the County Executive today in Laurel, and I will visit the remainder of the larger incident scenes over the course of the next couple of days.

This was indeed a team effort of proportions surpassed by few in their careers. Whether you were at the EOC with me, or on any of the dozen or more incident scenes, or providing staffing at a firehouse or perimeter post, or providing care and comfort for our people; whether you are a command officer, police officer, firefighter, EMT, paramedic, dispatcher, civilian, administrative, paid or volunteer: THANK YOU for a job well done. I am proud and humbled to serve as your Fire Chief.

Please pass along my thanks to anyone who may not receive this email directly.

Marc S. Bashoor, Acting Fire Chief
Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department

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One of the Busiest Days in PGFD History

On Saturday February 19, 2011, the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department experienced one of the busiest days in the Departments history due to high winds and dry conditions that resulted in hundreds of brush fires and structure fires.  Numerous personnel have been  operating at several "hot spots" overnight and into this morning.  These locations include Chalk Point, Laurel and Piscataway.  The fires are 90% contained and should be near extinguishment today.  It is safe to say that Saturday, February 19, 2011, will be remembered as one of the busiest days in our history.  The Fire/EMS Department recalled off-duty firefighters to report to work; the last time this was done was September 11, 2001.  

Fire/EMS Department Public Safety Communications handled 821 calls for service yesterday; a normal day average is about 350 calls.  Firefighters were summoned from throughout the state and the District of Columbia to assist on incidents (a complete list of mutual aid jurisdictions is listed below).  Of all the homes damaged during this wind/fire event, it is estimated that $1 million + in fire loss occurred.  Another estimated $1 million + in fire loss occurred to commercial property.

There were seven "significant" incidents that occurred:

6:00 am - 8400 block of Potomac Avenue in College Park - House Fire & multiple outbuildings/Brush Fire.  Family Helped by Citizens Services Unit.  Event closed out at 9:30 am.

9:30 am - Chalk Point Road, Baden - 60 Acre Brush Fire.  100 firefighters, 1 Brush Vehicle burned up in this event, 1 firefighter suffered from heat exhaustion, units operated throughout the night.

10:59 am - 5400 block of Van Dusen Road, Beltsville/Laurel - 300 Acre Brush/Mulch Fire.  100+ firefighters, 90% contained, units operated throughout the overnight, potential for a multiple day event.  Interstate 95 was closed for 4 hours due to smoke and adjacent land areas burning. Two firefighters suffered non-serious injuries during this event.

11:42 am - 11900 through the 12200 block of Piscataway Road in Clinton - 250 Acre Brush/House Fire, 2 homes, 5 + outbuildings and 5 abandoned farm homes.  One family assisted by Citizen Services Unit.  150 firefighters, 90% contained, units operated overnight and will continue today, potential multiple day event.

1:06 pm - Queen Anne Road in Bowie- 15 Acre Brush Fire

1:56 pm - 14700 Baltimore Av, Burlington Coat Factory, Laurel Mall - 2-alarm building fire, extinguished.

4:18 pm - 5100 block of Decatur Street, Bladensburg - 2 house fires, 2 families displaced, assisted by Citizens Services Unit

There are firefighters operating in Prince George's County from all of our routine Mutual Aide Counties, including all of our contiguous jurisdictions, as well as through assistance coordinated by the County Emergency Operations Center and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, from:

St Mary's County MD, Calvert County MD, Charles County MD, Anne Arundel County MD, Montgomery County MD, Baltimore City MD, Arlington County VA, Alexandria City VA, Fairfax County VA, Washington DC, Washington County MD, Carroll County MD, Cecil County MD, Caroline County MD, Queen Anne County MD, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The Emergency Operations Center in Landover Hills, was activated and was staffed with personnel from County Police, Fire/EMS, Central Services, Public Works, Emergency Management, Red Cross, Public Safety Communications, Homeland Security, and the County Executives Office.

There will continue to be smoke and odors from all of these fires several for days. Citizens should keep their windows closed, and if they are sensitive to smoke, avoid areas impacted by these events. 

The Officers of the Prince George's County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Association would like to thank all of our members for demonstrating true professionalism during this unprecedented event. We would also like to thank the respobders from our neighboring jurisdictions that rendered assistance.

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PGFD Lieutenant Awarded National Emergency Technician of the Year Award

The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department received notification that one of our members has been selected to receive a very prestigious award. The Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) chose Fire Fighter/Medic Lieutenant George F. Flanagan, III as their organization’s “2010 National Emergency Technician of the Year.” Flanagan was selected at the local and state level, as well. This is the first time a member of our Department has won at the national level.

Lieutenant Flanagan is being recognized for rescuing a 4-year-old child from her burning Hyattsville apartment in February 2010. On the day of the rescue, he and several other firefighters were the first to arrive on the scene of an apartment fire on Toledo Place. Crews located and removed the child’s father while Lieutenant Flanagan located the young girl and removed her from the apartment that was charged with thick smoke and intense heat. As one team of firefighters worked to extinguish the fire, other firefighters removed the two victims and assisted paramedics in their treatment and transport to the hospital. Tragically, the father succumbed to his injuries; the young girl, however, has since made a full recovery.

Upon being told of his award, Flanagan stated, “I am honored to have been selected for this award, and I accept it on behalf of my crew that day and for the paramedics who did everything they could do to save the father and daughter. This rescue was a team effort.”

Fire Fighter/Medic Lieutenant Flanagan will receive his award at a ceremony in March 2011.

The VFW traces its roots back to 1899 when veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) founded local organizations to secure rights and benefits for their service. Many arrived home wounded or sick and were left to care for themselves, as there was no medical care or veterans' pension for them.

In their misery, some of these veterans banded together and formed organizations with what would become known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. After chapters were formed in Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania, the movement quickly gained momentum. By 1915, membership grew to 5,000; by 1936, membership was almost 200,000.

Annually, the 2.1 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliary contribute more than 11 million hours of volunteerism in the community, including participation in Make A Difference Day and National Volunteer Week.

Fire Fighter/Medic Lieutenant Flanagan is a 10-year member of the Department and is currently assigned to the Berwyn Heights Fire/EMS Station 814.

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We Are Public Servants, Not Public Enemies

The IAFF is fighting back against politically motivated attacks on our members' pensions. On February 9, the IAFF launched a public education campaign calling out politicians like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who use first responders as scapegoats for the financial woes of the nation’s states and cities.

In a full-page ad in the February 9 USA TODAY, and in upcoming television spots and YouTube videos, the IAFF is asking for public support for the work fire fighters and paramedics do and the benefits they’ve earned.

“After a Career Saving Lives, Politicians Want to Take Our Life Savings,” declares the USA TODAY ad.

Click here to watch the video.

“This is truly an unfair attack, a political attack. It’s really just a smoke screen,” says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger, who noted that 10 national, state and local organizations recently issued a release disputing politicized misinformation about pension solvency. “We’re adding the voice of fire fighters to the growing campaign to protect vital public services.”

In an article posted by In These Times, Schaitberger calls for dialogue, instead of an escalating war of words.

“In an era of revenue shortfalls and budget deficits, fire fighters have become scapegoats of mayors, governors and corporate opportunists who have grossly misrepresented the facts in the public discourse over unfunded pension liabilities,” he wrote. “What they’re not saying is that they are responsible for the unfunded liabilities,” Schaitberger continued. “They are responsible for riding the wave of pension plan investment profits and putting off making annual pension payments for years. They are responsible for creating pension payment holidays and failing to make actuarially required payments. Now their misjudgments leave them facing much larger pension bills.”

Ultimately, the blame for the fiscal problems of local and state governments rests at the feet of Wall Street speculators who crippled the U.S. economy with what amounted to fraudulent investment schemes, Schaitberger says. And he accuses the same speculators of lining up to get their hands on fire fighter pension money.

“We recognize that these Wall Street speculators are urging politicians to turn over our pension funds to them, in the form of riskier defined contribution retirement plans,” he says. “They have no problem risking our future if it lines their pockets.”

Schaitberger says the IAFF will defend its members vigorously, taking the case directly to the public. “Our entire careers have been dedicated to protecting our neighbors and our neighborhoods,” he says. “We believe our neighbors will stand with us against these unfair political attacks.”

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Knights of Columbus Announce County Fire Fighter/Medics of the Year

The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department has been notified that two of our employees will be recognized with awards. The Knights of Columbus, Sacred Heart Council No. 2577, will honor and award our Firefighter/Medics at their Annual Public Safety Recognition Night and Bull and Oyster Roast on Saturday, February 19, 2011. The event will be held at the K of C Boswell Hall, 6111 Columbian Way in Bowie, Maryland.

Fire Fighter William Vanarsdale and Captain James Jiron have been selected to receive the organization’s “2010 Fire Fighter for the Year” and “2010 Paramedic of the Year” awards, respectively.

Brother Vanarsdale was selected for his role in rescuing a mobility challenged male from his burning Lanham home in November 2010. Vanarsdale and a fellow firefighter removed the victim from a bedroom that was immediately adjacent the room on fire. Despite his injuries, the elderly man survived the ordeal.

Brother Jiron was selected for his heroic efforts that saved the lives of two men inside a burning home in September 2010. This incident occurred while Jiron was off-duty and attending an out-of-town family function. He observed the burning structure and without the protection of personal protective equipment and a hose line, entered the home and alerted the occupants and assisted them from the smoke and heat filled home.

Upon hearing of the awards, Acting Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor stated, “I am proud of the efforts of our personnel, their heroic actions to save lives. Their performances during these incidents are commendable. I thank the Knights of Columbus for recognizing these deserving employees and the other public safety personnel selected to receive awards.”

Anyone interested in attending the award ceremony should contact Jim Nelson, 301-262-1041.

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National Media Tap PGFD for Information and Resources

The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department recently played a role in media productions, which will air around the country. It is not uncommon for production companies to contact our Department, seeking assistance with their projects. While their reasons vary, always included is that we are a “media-friendly” department with a diverse roster of personnel, equipment, resources, and incidents.

Over the past several weeks we have worked with nationally-recognized media outlets on two separate projects. A popular cable company is producing a two-hour special that will air in summer 2011. The show will demonstrate how various gadgets have changed our way of life. The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department was selected to participate in the segment that features smoke alarms and how they have changed since their inception. Acting Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor provided the main commentary, and firefighters from St. Joseph Community Fire/EMS Station brought along the production crew on a neighborhood smoke alarm check.

In May 2009, an explosion destroyed stores and injured several firefighters operating on the scene of a natural gas leak at the Penn Mar Shopping Center in Forestville. A national media outlet interviewed two personnel involved in that incident and will document the Penn Mar incident during a broadcast of this popular show. On Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011, Acting Major Kenneth McSwain and Acting Battalion Chief Grady Valencis were interviewed about their role on the incident. This show will air sometime during spring/summer 2011.

Additional information about the broadcast dates for these two shows will be available when more definitive dates and times are known.

In December 2010, a production crew from The Battalion TV visited Prince George’s County and resided with firefighters for a week. They bunked and rode with Branchville Fire/EMS Station 811 and District Heights Fire/EMS Station 826. This web-based series documents activities they encountered during their stay. There will be a minimum of five episodes involving Prince George’s County that will be posted over the next several weeks.

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Rushern Baker Elected Prince George's County Executive

On Tuesday September 14, 2010, Prince George's County citizens exercised their right to vote in the Primary Elections held throughout the county. With the support of IAFF Local 1619 and 44% of the votes, Candidate for County Executive, Rushern Baker, was the clear winner of the day.

In January of 2010, Based on the input of our members, the 13 board members for our union voted unanimously in favor of endorsing Rushern Baker. IAFF Local 1619 members and their families, spent their free time, off duty, working diligently over the last several months posting signs, answering phone calls from voters, helping with campaign events, and speaking with the public about why we feel Rushern Baker is the best candidate for Prince George's County Executive.

Rushern Baker took time out during his campaign to visit with Prince George’s County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics in the field, to better understand the challenges faced every day by the members our organization. We look forward to working with Mr. Baker, and members of the County Council to ensure that the citizens of Prince George's County get the highest level of Fire and EMS services.

The Board members and Leadership of IAFF Local 1619 would like to thank all of our members for their hard work and dedication. Together, we can win a better future!

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