Maryland firefighters suspended after incident at house fire, rivalry between departments exposed

A fight about water between two Prince George's County fire crews led to the suspension of two Maryland firefighters and may have thrust into the spotlight a longtime rivalry between career and volunteer firefighters.

The sidelined Prince George’s County firefighters — one career and one volunteer — are temporarily banned from responding to emergency calls while officials investigate a contentious exchange at the scene of a December house fire, The Washington Post reported Friday. Mark Brady, a Prince George’s County Fire/EMS spokesman, confirmed to the newspaper the firefighters were placed on administrative duty.

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The Dec. 29 incident in Capitol Heights occurred between Engine 826b – mostly made up of career firefighters – and Engine 833 – an all-volunteer department, according to WTOP-TV. incidentStatter911, a longtime firefighter blog, caught audio of the incident.

“I need that water,” a firefighter from Engine 826b reportedly told the Engine 833 crew. “I am going to put a hose clamp on your attack line.”

Another firefighter reportedly responded later: “Engine 833 to command, have 26’s driver take the hose clamp off our attack line.”

In the interest of speed, the firefighters who are first on the scene at a blaze typically use water supplied from their truck until a backup crew can replenish them with additional water from a hydrant, according to The Washington Post.

Dave Statter, who runs Statter911, told the Post the incident was “really childish.”

“If we’re to believe the radio traffic, he’s basically saying ‘If I don’t get water, you’re not getting water,’ which is really, really childish,” Statter said. “Whatever the provocation … it does not justify shutting down the hose line of people in a fire.”

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Statter said the rivalry between the departments goes back about 50 years. A past altercation reportedly led to assault charges but the accused in that case was eventually acquitted.

Brady told The Washington Post there was no physical altercation between the firefighters at the Dec. 29 call and the exchange in question had no impact on the fight to extinguish the flames. He confirmed to the newspaper that the radio transmissions from Statter911 were authentic. No one was injured in the fire.

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