By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The union representing Anne Arundel County Fire Department firefighters says the department is so short staffed, citizen volunteers are having to pitch in to fight fires.

It was a recent fire that raised the union’s alarm.

Last week, a Shady Side home was fully involved in flames.

When the fire truck pulled up and two Anne Arundel County firefighters stepped out, they had to get help from a citizen.

“We had to rely on a private citizen working in the capacity of a sanitation worker to pull a line and put water on the fire,” said AACO Firefighters Union president Joe Addivinola.

A man’s body was found inside. Fire officials say he committed suicide after first setting his house on fire, but this fire and a separate fire still had civilians pitching in.

“National Fire Protection Association requires and states that there should be four career personnel on any fire engine or truck,” Addivinola said.

[Reporter: They say only two responded.] “No, two came on the engine, but two came on the medic unit. All four personnel responded to the call in a fire fighting capability,” he said.

The two firefighters on the medic call in Shady Side rolled up after the first truck arrived, although the fire department admits staffing is an issue.

According to the union, out of 31 stations, only four meet the requirement for four professionals on a call out. Half of the 31 stations have three professionals. Nine stations have two, and two stations have just one.

“We truly believe this is a state of emergency and we need more personnel on staffing,” Addivinola said.

The fire chief does not dispute the numbers, but says positions are in the process of being filled.

“I think that both myself and the county executive know we need to grow the fire department,” said chief Allan Graves. “I think the difference between our approach and the union’s approach is how quickly we do that.”

The department says it is filling vacancies, and has shifted resources to cover as much of the county as quickly as possible.

The department had secured a federal grant to hire additional firefighters, but the county executive returned it, claiming it only provided money to pay additional salaries for two years.

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