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New fire apparatus helps Md. FD with more efficient responses, less wear and tear

A new fire engine, rescue and ambulances help Cumberland firefighters deal with increasing calls and maintenance issues


City of Cumberland MD Fire Department/Facebook

By Teresa McMinn
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND, Md. — Two new vehicles will allow for an efficient shift in the way the Cumberland Fire Department responds to calls.

In the past, the department’s vehicles carried specialized equipment, including ropes for cliff and confined space rescues, as well as hazardous materials gear, that wasn’t needed on all calls.

The extra cargo added to the deterioration of the apparatuses.

“They were weighed down,” Cumberland Fire Department Chief Shannon Adams said Friday.

“We had developed some significant maintenance problems,” he said of the department’s vehicles with substantial odometer numbers. “These units get a lot of hard, city miles ... just a lot of wear and tear.”

But a $728,000 2022 Pierce rescue truck recently placed into service now hauls the extra equipment, which is most often used in response to vehicle accidents.

“It’s (also) got all of the swift water rescue equipment,” Adams said.

The rescue truck will allow lighter loads to be carried on other vehicles, including a $716,000, 2023 Pierce saber pumper delivered to the department on Thursday.

“We’ll just carry the general firefighting equipment on it,” he said of the pumper. “It makes it cheaper to buy because there’s not a lot of extras to it.”

Basic equipment can also be built faster than more “fancy” vehicles, he said.

“Manufacturers have gotten behind on things,” Adams said of supply chain problems that happened during the global pandemic and continue to slow production.

City officials recently approved the fire department’s purchase of an $898,000 engine that won’t be ready until spring 2025.

The cost of that vehicle increased by roughly $100,000 in the past year, he said.

This spring, the department will also receive two ambulances, each that costs roughly $400,000, and one with four-wheel drive, Adams said.

‘Busiest time’

The department has 52 staff members.

A typical day includes three rotated shifts of 11-member crews who operate two fire engines, a ladder truck and two ambulances.

“We just hired three new recruits. They’re actually going through the (fire) academy right now,” Adams said of the department’s newest firefighters expected to be finished with training by mid-December.

“This is our busiest time of year for training,” he said of paramedic and emergency medical services staffers who typically undergo refresher courses to renew their licenses in October.

The department overall is “very busy,” Adams said of responding to an average of 22 calls per 24-hour period.

The department’s call volume has increased in recent years with 6,613 in 2020 and 7,217 in 2021.

“Most of it has been EMS related,” Adams said.

Last year, CFD logged 1,488 fire and 6,180 EMS calls.

Reasons for the growing demand include fluctuating COVID-19 cases.

Some folks who have no health care use the department’s ambulance service for a ride to the hospital emergency room, he said.

Additionally, “We have an aging population that requires more attention,” Adams said. “Some days it does become very busy.”

The department also averages two drug overdose calls per day, he said.

“Our crews are doing well managing the calls,” Adams said and added CFD has a strong working relationship with Allegany County for mutual aid when needed.

“We work well together,” Adams said. “Things are covered ... there are no deficiencies.”

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