OCEAN CITY – In less than a year, the Ocean City entities that make up the fire department have gone from bitter rivals and largely divided to a new and unified organization. Here is a snapshot of that progress.
How Bad It Got
February 08: The volunteer fire company threatens to leave the town of Ocean City and go to West Ocean City and included this harsh statement in a letter to the Mayor and City Council.
"The fire service has consistently been ranked highest in public opinion and trust while the local governments have been ranked low. This duplicitous behavior by some of the Mayor and City Council clearly demonstrates a basis for this low esteem. The OCVFC cannot function under this umbrella of distrust and deceit.”
March 08: The Mayor and City Council and the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company (OCFVC) agreed to come together and try to hash out the problems that had created the huge rift and move towards a solution that all parties could feel comfortable with.
The OCVFC responded to the Mayor and Council’s proposal offering a counterproposal that would place the OCVFC in charge of all fire fighting responsibilities within the town leaving the paid fire/EMS division in charge of all medical and emergency response.
April 08: The council unanimously approves appointing one chief (Chris Larmore). In doing so, they publicly hoped that it would be the “first step” in unifying the department.
“I’m sure all of us feel like the weight of the world is lifted off of our shoulders.” — Larmore
“I think this adequately addresses the concerns that the volunteers brought to us. We need to take this step, we need to pass this, we need to move forward to build this department.” –Mayor Rick Meehan
May 08: Town officials and the OCVFC come to an official agreement over the town’s fire services signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that officially named former OCVFC Chief Chris Larmore as the town’s first fire chief.
What’s Happened Since
December 08: The City Council approves new unified seal in which the fire department will work under, using a “throwback” logo that implements the town seal into the new logo.
“To the lay person, this may not seem like that big of a deal, but to us it is. We think the new seal has a clean and professional look to it and represents how we are now closer together as a group despite the different divisions of our department.” — Larmore.
The City Council unanimously approved the purchase of new safety equipment for the fire department water rescue team, stemming from the heroic late September rescue of three intoxicated swimmers in dreadful conditions. New equipment including night-vision goggles, high-visibility wetsuits and strobe buoys, and Larmore instills new “two in/two out” policy.
January 09: Larmore outlines $1 million in cuts and efficiency ways to the council in which the department will be fiscally responsible by cutting costs, without cutting corners on the level of public service.
The council approves in split 4-3 vote to move forward with the design process for improvements to Station 4, also known as the Montego Bay fire station.
March 09: Process to internally promote career division employees to management positions is in final stages and the four new captains and the assistant chief are on schedule to be announced in the near future.
“It’s my gut feeling, that one of the gentleman that you see appointed with these promotions will eventually be the next fire chief.” — Larmore.