MCFRS News Release

Negotiations with Volunteers Reap Benefits

Memorandum of Agreement - First in Nation

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, County Council President Marilyn Praisner, County Fire Chief Tom Carr and Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association President Marcine Goodloe came together on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 to celebrate and recognize the first ever Direct Negotiation Agreement between Montgomery County Government and the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association.

In May 2004 the Montgomery County Council approved CB 36-03 legislation to create a more unified command and control structure for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. The legislation established for the first time the position of a uniformed County Fire Chief who has authority to administer, direct and originate fire and rescue operations for the entire Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, career and volunteer. Fire Chief Thomas W. Carr, Jr. was appointed Acting Fire Chief in October 2004 after a nationwide search was confirmed by the County Council and sworn-in as County Fire Chief in January 2005.

Other provisions of the new legislation included elimination of the previous position of Fire Administrator, the seven-member Fire and Rescue Commission was retained as a quasi-judicial review board to assist the new chief; and the Chief of the Division of Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services was enhanced and redefined with a clear role in the administration, recruitment, retention and promotion of volunteer personnel and facilities.

Council Bill 36-03 reorganized the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) and created the first ever County Fire Chief. Part of the reorganization included exclusive Local (volunteer) Fire Rescue Departments (LFRD) representation by the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association (MCVFRA) in accordance with Montgomery County Code, Chapter 21. This is the first and only known such arrangement for a volunteer fire/rescue organization in the United States (and possibly in the world).

A negotiating team made up of MCVFRA representatives met with Montgomery County Government representatives and Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service representatives and were involved in direct negotiations. Among other things highlights involve: volunteer recognition (defined volunteer status), clarified volunteer member record keeping guidelines, defined disciplinary process (including rights and protections/guarantees), provides for MCVFRA administrative and organizational funding, created a nominal fee for each active volunteer participants, formation of Length of Service Awards Program (LOSAP) Advisory Committee, improved death benefit, provides for additional medical expenses associated with annual physicals for volunteer members, and more.

The new Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) had unanimous support of the MCVFRA Board of Directors, which is comprised of the president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer and five district representatives. These are voluntary positions and all nine members are associated with local volunteer fire and rescue departments. The MOA was voted on and approved by the volunteers at large. There are 19 corporations and over 1,000 volunteer members that form the MCVFRA.

The Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association member departments have served the residents of Montgomery County for 85 years. Today's volunteers are involved in all types of emergency services from entry level firefighter and emergency medical technician to those of fire and rescue chiefs. The fire service has evolved from an all volunteer beginning to one of the largest combination (career/volunteer) systems in the Country. The majority of the community based local fire and rescue stations are owned by volunteer organizations and for the most part are staffed around the clock by a combination of career and volunteer personnel.

The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is a full spectrum life safety agency protecting nearly 1 million people who live and work in Maryland's most populous jurisdiction. The MCFRS is a combination system (career/volunteer), operating with a budget of about $195 million, comprised of nearly 1200 career uniformed personnel and professional civilian staff and an equal number of volunteers, nearly half of whom actively participate in emergency response. There are over forty fire and rescue facilities, including a 56 acre training academy, state-of-the-art communication facility, as well as thirty-five community fire and rescue stations strategically located throughout Montgomery County's 500 square miles in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.