MCFRS News Release

Fire and Rescue Budget Highlights

Fire and Rescue Budget Enhancements to Focus on Staffing and Response Times

Recently Montgomery County, County Executive Isiah Leggett introduced his proposed Fiscal 2008 Operating Budget. The budget as presented on March 13, 2007 proposes to enhance current level of services for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service and addresses some plans for the fire and rescue service now, and in the near future, as well. Recommendations include continuation of plans to move toward four-person staffing on all fire and rescue response units, enhancing Fire Code Enforcement capabilities by adding more inspectors and supporting the federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant which provides funding for additional firefighters.

The total Fiscal Year 2008 recommended Operating Budget for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is $193 million, an increase 8 percent (8%) from Fiscal Year 2007.

The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) is an all hazards, 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 over 190 million, comprised of over 1200 career uniformed personnel and professional civilian staff and an equal number of volunteers, nearly half of whom actively participate in emergency response.

In presenting the proposed budget, County Executive Leggett noted, "We depend on our public safety workers to protect our families and our property. Fire and Rescue response times that ought to be 6 to 8 minutes have crept up above 10 minutes in some areas of the County." He added, "That can literally mean the difference between life and death. That's why we are adding 58 new firefighters."

An increase in funding for the Fire and Rescue Service will add a total of fifty-eight (58) new firefighters, to include for expansion of the Fire Code Enforcement Section, adding twenty-two (22) new uniformed fire inspectors and implementing the second phase of increased staffing on fire apparatus to four firefighters that will add an additional thirty-six (36) firefighter positions to the fire and rescue force.

The additional fire inspectors will provide more adequate county-wide coverage to inspect all new and existing building fire protection systems, not only to ensure operability, but compliance, as well. Proposed funding for phase-two of the 'four-person' staffing initiative on all fire apparatus, includes thirty-six (36) firefighter positions to provide a fourth firefighter/paramedic on each of eight (8) units to ensure safety, effectiveness, and improve overall response times, most specifically on Advanced Life Support responses.

These improvements will reduce response times by dramatically expanding the number of fire fighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics available at any given time needed to respond to the increasing number of emergency calls. Over seventy percent (70%) of all emergency responses are medical calls of which 30%, or about 30,000, are of an immediate life threatening nature requiring the service of paramedics and other first responders. Furthermore, in this year's budget proposal is the County's matching funds of $345,000 in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security funded grant of $1.2 million for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant. The SAFER grant will fund twelve (12) firefighter positions.

All career and volunteer firefighters in Montgomery County are also trained as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). In addition there are about two hundred and thirty (230) Paramedics.

Despite an initial projected $175 million budget gap and a $23 million shortfall in State funding for education, Leggett submitted a balanced budget that provides for 6.7 percent growth and an increase of $259 million over the fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget - all without raising taxes. The $4.14 billion FY 2008 operating budget increases the County's commitment to public safety, education, affordable housing, seniors, community health, and libraries.

There's a record amount of money for schools, a $10 million increase for affordable housing programs, more Police and Fire and Rescue staff, more help for seniors, and a tripling of the County's commitment to youth violence prevention.

In addition, in order to reduce pedestrian fatalities, funding proposals expand education efforts to limited English speakers, who are disproportionately involved in pedestrian collisions, about safe pedestrian behavior.

Over the next two months, the County Council will hold public hearings and work sessions on Leggett's recommended FY08 Operating Budget. The final budget must be approved by June 1.