PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md. (DC News Now) — Prince George’s County firefighters are facing a staffing shortage – some say they’re having to work long hours to try and keep up with the demand. Now, they’re calling on county leaders to do something about this shortage.
“When Prince George’s County is running more calls than ever before in its history, and we have less firefighters to run those calls. It becomes very difficult for our firefighters,” said Grant Walker, Vice President of the Prince George’s County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association.
Walker said the long shifts are also taking a toll on their mental health and social lives.
“Our firefighters are being ordered in routinely the day after their shift, sometimes two days after their shift, and it’s becoming more and more common that it’s every shift and not just once every few months or a few weeks,” he said.
Walker said firefighters and EMS have also been required to work big events at the National Harbor and FedEx Field which leaves them with fewer firefighters to respond to other emergencies.
“We already have a strained workforce in the field where we don’t have enough bodies to cover our normal response complement. And now you’re adding somewhere between 40 to 50 additional positions that need to be filled on a weekend,” he said.
Now the union is calling on Prince George’s County leaders to expedite the hiring process so they can get more firefighters. In May, the hiring process switched from an open and closed process to an open-ended process, but the waiting time to be hired still takes time.
“At the end of the day, Prince George’s County has to expedite the hiring so that we get firefighters in here faster, or we’re going to continue to lose them to neighboring jurisdictions,” he said.
Walker said the union has asked county leaders for years to help with the hiring process but they don’t feel heard.
“While Prince George’s County has taken a number of steps to improve their hiring process, we’re still based in a very governmental system that moves in a very stepwise motion, instead of condensing our hiring process into a shorter timeframe so that they get the most qualified candidates as soon as possible into our ranks,” he continued.
Walker said they ultimately need nearly 250 firefighters to be in a comfortable position.
DC News Now reached out to county leaders but did not get a response back.
Anyone interested in becoming a firefighter is asked to contact Prince George’s County Fire and EMS.