The Hyattsville VFD heads into 2015 on the heels of our most successful recruiting year ever also met with challenges of the loss of some veteran members to great new jobs and personal accomplishments. Now, we look ahead to moving into our temporary quarters and construction beginning on the new firehouse in the coming year, presenting its own unique challenges.
In the final year of our federal SAFER recruitment and retention grant, we enjoyed our most successful recruitment year ever. Focusing on a mix of local fire and EMS members and live-in recruitment, we welcomed about 30 new members to the organization in 2014. Remarkably, more than three-quarters are already certified, have completed or are taking EMT courses. Numerous other members completed Firefighter I, II and other fire/rescue training courses.
The four-year SAFER grant, funded by FEMA, has allowed the department to significantly improve how we manage our recruitment and retention programs and market the benefits of becoming a volunteer at our organization. It also allowed us to maintain and grow our staffing levels while more than a dozen active members moved on or took reduced roles with the department in the last 12-18 months, some taking their years of HVFD experience to full time jobs with departments from Connecticut to South Carolina, California to right here in Prince George’s County. In addition, several members celebrated life changes such as marriage, children or new jobs out of the area and we are grateful for their time spent with us.
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With the arrival of our first new ambulance in over a decade recently and a second unit expected to be ordered this year, we continue to expand our EMS capabilities. Our EMS members stepped up with expanded duty coverage overnight on weekdays, giving our live-in members some much needed relief in a very busy year. We also set a high of 78 Paramedic Ambulance calls in 2014, including 17 runs in 24 hours on Christmas Eve into Christmas Day for the busiest shift yet.
This year our units responded to 5,456 total calls, including 1,302 for the engine company, 517 for the ladder truck, the rescue squad to 671 calls and the ambulance to 2,889. While more than half of our runs are emergency medical in nature, we were also in the top-third in the county in first-due box alarms and the Fourth Battalion as a whole was among the busiest in terms of box alarms and total overall responses. The HVFD tackled a wide array of responses in 2014, including numerous working structure fires and vehicle extrications. This included a 2-alarmer in Langley Park and a busy few days that featured two 2-alarm fires and three working extrications. There was also this german shepherd rescue, with a milkbone assist.
In late summer, construction began on interior renovations to the former American Red Cross building adjacent to the firehouse, which will serve as our temporary home for 24-36 months while construction on our new firehouse takes place. This phase of the project is expected to be completed in late winter. A temporary garage will be added to the rear of the Red Cross building and sometime thereafter we’ll formally move into the Red Cross facility and the existing firehouse will be torn down to make way for the new joint emergency services facility in partnership with Prince George’s County and the Red Cross.
In partnership with the Mall at Prince George’s, we shifted our annual Open house to the shopping venue in October in our first-ever Fire Safety Day. Over a thousand people including 400+ children participated in the event. The location of our 2015 event will be in part determined by construction needs at the firehouse.
We re-introduced our community newsletter in 2014, part of our annual fall fund drive — one of two major community giving campaigns which also includes our spring family photo fundraiser. Overall we are very thankful for a community which recognizes the value of the HVFD and supported us in a variety of ways, not the least of which are these fund raisers. This year’s donations included a record month of online giving in December.
In the spirit of the holidays, the HVFD expanded its annual Santa Run to a full three-night program in December, covering every neighborhood in our first due. Each night more than a dozen volunteers, including Santa, Mrs. Claus and our mascot, Larry, ventured out to bring cheer to the kids in our community. We received amazing feedback from residents and plan to continue the program in the future.
The HVFD welcomed five new members to Life Membership — Matthew Leonard, Tristan Tricarico, Eric Smolinsky, Matthew Davy and Jimmy Butler. Nearly a dozen other members celebrated five years with us.
As always, none of our continued success would be possible without our dedicated volunteers, who staff our station’s fire, rescue and EMS units the majority of time 365 days a year. With the exception of a day crew most weekdays, the HVFD is staffed 100% weeknights, overnight, holidays and weekends. Our incredible volunteers save taxpayers at least $2.2 million annually in staffing and operational costs. Over the course of 2014, 108 fire, EMS and administrative/support volunteers gave their precious time to the HVFD.
We also would like to thank our many partners who help us in our mission, including the City of Hyattsville and Town of University Park, the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department especially our great day crew who with us work hard everyday to provide the best example of a successful combination fire/EMS department, and the American Red Cross.