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EMTs, paramedics among staff exodus from Md. FD

21 Carroll County fire, EMS employees have either quit or been fired in the last 10 months


The 16 candidates salute during the National Anthem. Carroll County Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services (DFEMS) Lieutenant Commissioning Ceremony, Thursday June 1, 2023 at Carroll Community College Theatre. Chief Michael Robinson, Director of the new combination department presided over the swearing-in event with 16 lieutenants being inducted into the department.

Jeffrey F. Bill/TNS

By Sherry Greenfield
Baltimore Sun

CARROLL COUNTY, Md. — Carroll County’s Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services has had 21 employees leave in the last 10 months, including six in March, according to the county’s response to a Maryland Public Information Act request.

It is unclear whether these employees — including firefighters, emergency medical technicians, shift commanders, paramedics and two assistant chiefs — quit voluntarily or were fired from their positions, according to information provided to the Carroll County Times from the March 20 information request.

A request for the list of department firings was denied in a March 27 letter from Carroll County Attorney Timothy Burke, citing laws that prohibit the disclosure of personnel records of an individual. However, Burke did provide the names, titles and station assignments of those who have left — without specifying why — along with a list of the department’s current personnel.

The county document lists the 144 employees currently working within the department. These include firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, apparatus drivers, lieutenants, shift commanders and administrative assistants.

The majority of the employees were hired since the beginning of 2023. They work at stations in Reese, Sykesville, Taneytown, Manchester, Westminster, the county government office building and at the Carroll County Public Safety Training Center in Westminster.

This list does not include the 21 staff employees who left the department since June. Specifically, one employee left in June, three in July, two in August, three in September, and one in October. In 2024, two left in January, three in February, and six in March.

Chris Winebrenner, the county’s communications manager, stated in a February email that the details regarding the “separations of employment, whether voluntary or involuntary, are personnel matters and the county will not comment.” This statement was provided after the departure of two lieutenant shift commanders and one assistant chief of EMS, who together left the Public Safety Training Center on Feb. 2.

“The positions will be filled in an acting capacity for an interim time period and the county will recruit as we do for open positions,” Winebrenner said.

County officials have not responded to questions as to whether turnover is a concern.

Michael Karolenko, president of the Carroll County Professional Fire Fighters & Paramedics International Association of Fire Fighters Local 5184 stated in an email Tuesday that though the Department of Fire and EMS have taken “historic steps” forward over the last year, they are concerned with the number of departures.

“Some of these [departures] are attributed to ‘growing pains’ as we establish our department,” he said. “Some have left for more competitive, already established departments and others for non-fire department jobs, stepping away from the challenges of a career in the fire & EMS service today compounded by the struggles of establishing a new department.

“For those who persist, morale has certainly reflected the difficulties of fluctuating staffing and establishing departmental practices and culture, creating a somewhat cyclical effect and a concern for us,” he said.

Karolenko said he believes they will continue to struggle with turnover until concerns can be addressed through collective bargaining.

“Safety, quality of life, consistency, and the accountability to ensure fair practices all matter and are vital to retention,” he said. “We believe we will continue to struggle with turnover and exits to other departments until we are able to address those concerns, (and) a clear future, stability, and security for the employees of Fire & EMS.”

The push to create a combination paid and volunteer county fire service began in Carroll County more than a decade ago. In 2018, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation allowing the county to establish the new department and in October 2020, commissioners unanimously voted to pass an ordinance creating it.

Chief Michael Robinson was named director in September 2021 and is responsible for daily operations and development and implementation of department procedures. He also assists with hiring. Robinson earns an annual salary of $132,268

Robinson said last year the department plans to hire up to 240 employees in the next two years. They currently have 144 employees listed in the county document.

In the $542.8 million operating budget for the current fiscal year, the department is allotted $23.5 million, including money for round-the-clock EMS coverage, administrative and operational costs.

In the recommended operating budget for fiscal 2025, which starts July 1, the department is slated to get $22 million in new funding. That number could change as the Board of County Commissioners continues working on the budget.

A firefighter/emergency medical technician is paid $21.69 an hour, according to a county hiring document. A fire apparatus driver earns $23.64 an hour, a paramedic, $25.78 an hour and a firefighter/paramedic, $28.42 an hour.

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