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Montgomery County takes over Burtonsville VFD. Cites sex, public urination & safety concerns at MD firehouse. Volunteers call it retaliation over ambulance fee fight.

Coverage of 2009 incident at Burtonsville VFD


In a move that some firefighters said is long overdue, Montgomery County took over operations at the Burtonsville Volunteer Fire Department in Montgomery County last week.

What’s allegedly taken place over the last year prompted this drastic step: Public urination, fornication, destruction of property and delays in responding to calls, according to the Montgomery County Fire Department spokesman Scott Graham.

Some firefighters at Station 15 said the situation has become so bad that no one wants to work at the station anymore.

The head of the Montgomery County Career Firefighters’ Association put it this way: “It’s a zoo and the animals have been running the zoo.”

Above is the story on the 2009 incident where a career firefighter was urinated on by a firehouse guest.

In a memo chief Richard Bowers sent out Thursday, anyone now entering the station must report to an on-duty career officer. They must also follow any orders that officers issues.

While leadership there has been put on notice, the volunteers can still carry out their duties. The department spokesman said citizens are still safe.

The man who leads the county’s volunteer fire fighters said this is retaliation for the volunteers’ activities working to oppose the county’s failed ambulance fee proposal.

Eric Bernard, of the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, admits there was a volunteer who brought a guest who urinated in a bunk bed. But he said that was dealt with in 2009.


Comments - Add Yours

  • Anonymous

    Was this the station the show “Hosed” was based on?

    Typical volunteers, it cant be that your incapable of doing your job, or running a station no it has to be that they are trying to get you back….

    Sure most of us started out as vollies but 90% of the ones worth a damn got hired on somewhere….

    Get over it the job is not about you…if you still care it will be business as usual no matter who is running the show.

  • Anonymous

    “incapable of doing your job”? you better check your facts.They are many allegations flying around, but incompetence or erecting parking lots is not one of them.

    “running a station”:
    you mean like staffing a critical ladder truck, core rescue squad 24/7? Often staffing an extra one or two engines? Coordinating staffing so that we have 2 or 3 more members on the firetrucks than on a county piece? Providing REAL special service? (County ladder trucks and squad have 3. you think this is enough?) Daily Training? Rigorous checkoffs? Promotional exams? Duties by position and specific SOPs? Being the only station with monthly trips to the academy for full scale box alarm drills? Providing free dinner to the volunteers AND career guys? Doing station procurement and most of the maintenance?

    Making multiple rescues in the past years?

    I would humbly request ALL to do some investigation before jumping on the bandwagon.


    @ anonymous…..speak for your own self. i have seen plenty of vollies in my time in the fire service that can run circles around paid departments both individually and as a department. these yahoos are bad apples and it could have just as easily been career ff’s……do a little research and educate yourself-these things happen in BOTH sides of the service.

  • the ear

    hey anonymous do you also staff an ambulance24/7. Oh I forget you guys are too good to do that type of thing.It would mean you could do 24 on an EMS unit in DC and then ride one at Burtonsville.That isn’t going to happen.
    Enough said you guys live with it.

  • Anonymous

    As a paid guy who is detailed to 15 from time to time I have lived the Burtonsville “dream.” There are good vollies there, no doubt. But there are serious issues that need to be addressed and have not. The stealing, urination, bed bugs and most seriously-undisciplined fire ground behavior have to be addressed. If you look at the schedule on any given day, people are canceling overtime at the station because they just don’t want to put up with the headache. Its nothing to do with Ambulance billing, Burtonsville supported it. They have an ambulance in the station which they will only run if they can bill for it. It is never in service. A total waste of donated money. It comes to an issue of accountability. There are DC, Baltimore city, Loudon paid guys volunteering there. They get to come in and do whatever they want and do what would get them fired at their paid job. There has been no oversight, now they have it. They are going to be held to a standard now that the rest of us have been held to. Just because your jacket says volunteer doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want at the firehouse.

    • Red Line

      Anonymous I am in agreement with you with one exception. Some of those guys from other departments that volunteer there are good guys.They come in and ride then they leave.They don’t create issues especially the ones from Loudoun County.LCFR holds their people accountable.Just ask people that work there.

  • City Guy

    As an outside observer who works in an all career fire department here are my thoughts:

    “Stealing” – The only people who are responsible for any alleged theft were the individuals who did not take time to properly secure their belongings. The career and volunteer personnel do have lockers, correct? Its not a High School or its Principal’s fault if a student leaves their belongings out in the open to get stolen, why is it a Fire Department’s or Fire Chief’s fault at a firehouse?

    “Urination” – My guess is the firefighter who was used as a toilet is probably full of sh$% anyways, and the guilt party was confused. These incidents happen everywhere around the country. All your departments’ are doing by taking this issue from the back parking lot(where it should be handled) to the news is shining both sides in negative light and eroding your public’s trust.

    “Bed bugs” – Its a problem all over the East Coast. As a member of a fully paid fire department, I can promise you it will happen in a all paid house as easily as a combination house. Its not a management issue. Have the bugs sprayed, deal with it,and move on.

    Just my two cents

    • Anonymous

      I like that, its never the person who did it fault. How could you possibly blame the person for not taking the time to properly secure their belongings? Accept responsibility and try to correct the issues.

  • SOF

    This won’t be popular among those looking to defend good union jobs, but:

    There’s absolutely no reason for a Fire Department to provide ambulance service.

    Fire protection is a “public good”, in that everybody benefits, and no one can be excluded. Everybody in the neighborhood benefits when the fire department prevents a conflagration.

    EMS transport is a “private good” in that only the transported patient benefits, and it’s trivial to exclude someone from the service. Furthermore, the vast majority of EMS calls are not emergencies.

    A fire department choosing not to provide transport services is a good use of public resources. There’s no reason for a $100,000+ a year firefighter to do a job that a $15/h H.S. graduate with an EMT card could do.

  • Chief72

    I guess Montgomery County owns the station. I don’t know that for a fact, just guessing. Paid or Vols. must adhere to a given set of standards. Without stardards you have dis-organization. Where were the Vol. officers? According to standards the next ranking certified officer is in charge of the station. Hmmm! Be it paid or vol. Has nothing to do with the station, its about chain of command. Respect! and a common goal: SAVING LIVES AND PROTECTING PROPERTY.

  • Anonymous

    “Urination” was a single incident and has been adressed. Contact station 15 if you would like the details. Even thought I am a volunteer, I don’t want to air dirty MCFRS laundry in public because it makes us ALL look bad, and we are all supposed to be brothers. One apple can ruin it for a good bunch of guys. That is all that needs to be said.

    Bed bugs? Give me a break. Who knows who brought those in, and that really isn’t even anyones fault.

    Stealing? None of that has even been confirmed.

    And on to the most egregious, false and disgusting fabrication you have made… We will only staff an ambulance if we can bill? Cut it out dude. That think is in service multiple nights a week now, and the EMS program at 15 is growing exponentially… all With no billing in sight. What you might be alluding too was a pilot proposal tha was done away with YEARS with a different chief.

    I think the point is, the county get some of the best and most top notch service from firemen that take pride in their work and train all the time. When you have a white shirt, a couple of dirty spots show… but noone has anything on us more than isolated internal incidents, while county citizens continue to benefit in the end with things like FULLY staffed specials.

    Ultimatly , you have to look at what the citizens are getting and not what your bruised ego want to make a big deal out of. Did your line get stolen? Beaten in from the rid? Why do you feel the need to lie on a public forum and denigrate your brothers?

    • Anonymous

      Really? You all at 15 are getting your ambulance out? I don’t think so. I hear PG running your BLS calls all the time. Step up to the plate and quit being a bunch of whining little girls.

      Also, only respond with the unit that is dispatched and quit lying about your location in an attempt to squirrel calls in PG. We don’t want you, or your drama, on this side of the fence.

      You’re not welcome over here!

  • Anonymous

    Take pride in their work, like breaking every window out of a house that your not even breathing air in. I’d rather have 3 paid guys show up on a rig that know what they are doing than a truck full of retards that just want to break peoples property for no reason. Maybe this idea will spread to other out of control stations in the DC area.

    • Anonymous

      Thats the only thing you have to say? That tired old Line?

      An isolated one or two incidents that everyone repeats time after time, done by a couple of brand new rookies? You can’t refute anything else, so you resort to that BS. The issue has been corrected with the former rookies, it has not happened since.

      A couple of windows is nothing compared to all the new parking lots west county, everything mentioned before that you ignore and all the property/ lives saved. How many windows is one rekindle worth? Again, can you leave this dirty laundry off a public forum? It hurts the whole fire service including YOU.

  • Anonymous

    This has nothing to do with breaking windows. If you don’t believe in ventilation and breaking windows then dont break any. But you can’t expect people to not break windows on a fire because your feelings get hurt. Truck full of retards you must be talking about the other 12 trucks in Montgomery County.

  • play4keeps

    IMO, this is going to get ugly. There are failures of leadership on multiple accounts on both “sides” (and its a sad state of the situation South of the Mason-Dixon where the combination fire service is a failure) where both will end up looking bad. From the taxpayers prospective, the question is how much is the volly service saving in terms of tax expenditures and saving property and lives.

    All the other stuff is political and ideological, ie. Leggett and the Union against the vollies and volunteer autonomy. Unfortunately, DFRS sets itself up for failure every time, and this will be no different. Again, the ambulance billing issue, which was ultimately a lie being told by the volunteer corps (it was about protecting BCC fundraising efforts) but actively campaigned against by on-duty personnel who had nothing better to do with their time and further confused the voters with more lies – all revenue generated by ambo transports would go back into a general fund). Who ordered the Hatch Act Violation? The same that is going after the chain of command at Burtonsville. This is now the regular follies of a disfunctional system.

    Here’s the facts; the County voters made a decision a decade ago when they decided to have a single, unified fire system. That system entailed the County Fire Chief to be a political appointee of the County Executive. we all know and understand the political ramifications of the ambulance billing and the fact the Volly Assoc did not endorse Leggett. This is all part of that political process. Now, The County Fire Chief is doing the job he was hired to do, right, wrong, or indifferent. The lesson is for other jurisdictions to see how this system is evolving and accountable to the employees, the union, the volunteer interests and the taxpayers.

    Accountability and hostile work environments are things that fall outside of the other measures of the service like taxpayer savings and risk reduction. If it was such a hardship to work there (County Firefighters knocking down significant salary), why didn’t the DFRS leadership pull the guys out and distribute the manpower and leave it on the lap of the volunteers to sink or swim. A few documented failures to respond and it would have been a safety issue to the Community.

    I am always amazed at the lack of creative thinking and how these things are being played out in DFRS. I don’t condone the “rumored and proported” activity and lack of accountibility of the BFC, but by this prescident they are taking the actions of a single local fire rescue dept and not coming up with the right solution by going after the chain of command. For Burtonsville to be seen as a “rogue” outfit was/is a matter of opinion. You discipline the offenders but to go after the chain is pretty short sighted and most likely politically motivated. Even if safety was the core issue, this action will now be a threat to all the volly companies and will set the stage for continuing animosity between all.

  • Anonymous

    “In a memo chief Richard Bowers sent out Thursday, anyone now entering the station must report to an on-duty career officer. They must also follow any orders that officers issues”

    So let me get this straight, you have a combination system in the county however at this one house the career guys were isolated to running an ambulance and front line engine, the volls ran a truck, squad and sometimes a second engine? Correct me at any point.

    Pre-memo the volls did their own thing and the career side did their own thing? From the same house? Really?

    What management genius approved that? From either side, voll or career it’s a fundamental lack of leadership on display that leads to mistrust, hard feelings, accusations and ultimatley a breakdown of functional behavoirs.

    From 20K feet it looks like each side is bickering over specific incidents. Thats not really the problem here.

    Start at the top because that’s where this problem originates from.

    So the county chief writes a memo that says you volls need to step in line because your out of control, has his press officer go on the news for a 10 second snip and make some ovetures as to the volls behaving poorly and all is well. He looks good, the politicians and the union are happy and the public follows suit.

    Yup he is the chief of something, no doubt.

  • Anonymous

    The comments here seem somewhat on the same page with some different opinions on who, how,why,when,where,why,whynot. Ok first of all Burtonsville is basically a good Fire Dept. yes there are some allegations of MCFRS Employees being in a Hostile Work Environment. It is beyond pathetic that Career
    Personnel cancel scheduled overtime to avoid themselves of what seems to be an ongoing situation. The comments about why the BFD Authorities haven’t already addressed the issues of concern. When any Firefighter/Rescuer Career and/or Volunteer willnot bring/leave personal belongings into a Station for fear of the items being stolen, that is without doubt inexcusable. The Career Personnel did what was/is their avenue of relief. They reported it to the MCFRS Authorities and the Union. Given the fact Local 1664 did what any good Union would do is follow up and bring to light the needed Intervention by the County Fire Chief. The sarcascistic remarks about Chief Bowers was/is totally out of line and un called for. Yes he did take action in the form of an official written memo to express the displeasure and what is going to be. Now the focus is or should be placed upon the Volunteer leadership. Where, whynot was/were any Enforceable Actions Internal Burtonsville
    not undertaken to avoid the embarrassment and disgusting public view in the media? The Chief/Operational Officers of BFD and the President obviously did absolutely nothing. The comment about Training of Burtonsville Volunteers wasnot/isnot the main focus yes there are some Safety Concerns that are in need of immediate addressing and rectified. Ok Burtonsville Fire Dept, if you are in a Professional mindset then start now by getting your House/members in accordance. As for the comments no need for Fire Dept to operate an Ambulance/EMS Service that is without question a statement of incorrect opinions. There are Rural and some cities which have merged the EMS Service into Fire Dept operations. ie; FDNY now operates the Ambulances/Medic Service. LAFD operates EMS. DCFD Operates EMS. As for Burtonsville not having an Ambulance. The EMS Vehicle at Burtonsville is a Career Staffed “Full MEDIC Unit” (M715) The Engine is a Career Staffed Engine (E715).
    Come On Burtonsville VFD Leadership get it together now.
    Bottom Line here, “ACCOUNTABILITY” has been lacking to the point of non existent.

    Have A Nice day

  • Anon.

    There is a Fire Station 15 up the road in Frederick where this needs to happen as well!

  • Anonymous

    There is a fire station 15 in pwc where this needs to happen as well!

  • Anonymous

    You people are making a lot of incorrect assumptions and opinions. Most of you don’t know what goes on at 15 and are taking what you think you know to be facts (from management in the county and a labor organization that list volunteers as a rival organization) and spinning it way out of control.
    There is more accountability and outstanding leadership at Burtonsville, more so than anywhere else in the county. The big problem is that the BVFD does not and will not roll over to the county. Plain and simple.
    If the professionals don’t like working there than don’t.

  • chiefbobr

    Let me see if I understand the issues here: a VFD gets totally out of contral and becomes an embarassment to both their community and to Montgomery County as a whole. The Fire Chief sees what’s going on and – as he’s legally allowed (and probably required) to do, steps in and assumes administrative control over the station, personnel and equipment. Then some of the volunteers (I’m sure there are some good people there as well) whine and cry that this is ‘retaliation’ by the County Fire Rescue. And what did this supposed retaliation involve? This would be the majority of volunteers in Montgomery County fighting against the adoption of an ambulance trasnport service charge that most of the rest of the nation pays, but Montgomery County’s volunteers can’t seem to figure that out. It sounds like nothing but sour grapes to me, and one issue has absolutely nothing to do with the other. So unless those allegations can be substantiated, they amount to nothing more than slander.

  • nobody

    Why don’t you guys take it like grownups. The county has you dead to rights.It is all over until you play the game.If you don’t like the new rules go across the border to PG and see how long you last.

  • Anonymous

    GET OUT TICKS!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Just a Thought

    1. Fornication in the bunk room- This is strictly unfounded. There is no physical proof that somebody had sex in the bunk room.

    2. Multiple public urination- One incident happened. There is no point of coming up with an excuse about that, because well there isn’t. The member that was involved in that situation was suspended immediately until the investigation was conducted which took nearly 2 months to complete. He was then suspended for another month, and has since moved away. No longer a member. The other incident apparently occurred on a career guys vehicle. How did they know it was piss on the car and not homebody’s drink or something along those lines. What did they do smell it? How did they know it was a volunteer and not a high school kid (they frequently walk through our parking lot)

    3.Multiple thefts- Complete garbage of a rumor. There has been no proof of any thefts. The internal affairs report stated the thefts have been unfounded and in fact the investigation has stopped due to the possibility of falsified police reports. While the investigations were on going why were the volunteers being blamed? There are more paid guys thru the fire house than volunteers in a weeks time. Most of which being details from all around the county.

    4. Delay of 38 minutes to transfer to station 18- Completely false. Montgomery county will replace that unit after 3 mins and will fail that unit after 5 mins. There is no way that a fire truck or any unit for that matter can go 38 minutes with out responding with out being replaced.

    5. Failure to submit to a drug test- Occurred during the huge blizzard in February of 2010. The driver had his status revoked until the accident was investigated. There were 6 different accident that day including their shift chief. None of which had a drug test done. The medical clinic wasn’t even open due to the four feet of snow on the ground.

    6. Inappropriate conduct while responding- Not wearing any seat belts. That is inexcusable.

    7. Horse play- Really since when is there no horse play in a fire house. Come on now.

    The county fire chief has been given a mission by the county executive to get rid of the volunteers. Even though every incident at station 15 had been investigated and delt with accordingly (investigated by the county IA department) they are using all of the incidents along with the media to get rid of the strongest volunteer department in the county, let alone the region. The mission being to uproot the volunteer system in Montgomery county because Ike Leggett and the ambulance billing was not endorsed.

    Lets not all jump to conclusions and belief what you hear in the media, cause one thing I have learned is the media is absolutely always right about everything.

  • Frustrated

    It is disappointing and embarassing for everyone associated with Station 15.

    Accountability is needed from all.

  • Annonymous

    Why hasnt the Volunteer Fire Department done anything to address the claims, publish a rebuttal, seek a moderator? Even the website says nothing to protect the reputation of the volunteers.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Just a thought,
    1.All thefts were from detail people that had no access to lockers

    2.Three unination incidents, on the paid guy, on the floor next to a paid guy in the bunkroom area and on a paid guys car.

    3. Transfer to Howard County take forever to get out the door.


  • Annonymous

    You want to carry on about volunteers who are out of control, focus on Loudon County for a while and put things in perspective at Burtonsville.

  • Fed Up

    I am a volunteer at another station, and I am in COMPLETE agreement with the 12th floor on this one. Burtonsville has been a black eye for so long on the whole LFRD public relations. I’ve seen the stack of complaints against them…its at least a foot high. No other LFRD’s comes close. (in MoCo).

    I also wish the Association would go away. All they do is cause stress for those of us who actually RIDE the apparatus with the career guys. And, honestly, the best training and teaching I have ever received in the many years I’ve been a volunteer has been from the career guys.

    What, EXACTLY does the Association DO for us, anyways? Geez.