The West Annapolis Station, located on Jennifer Road, is filled with a hodgepodge of firefighters who have a notable difference among them — some get paid and some don't.
The West Annapolis Station houses the West Annapolis Volunteer Fire Company; however, they aren't the only firefighters in the building. As a supplement to the volunteer company, the Anne Arundel County Fire Department provides "career" firefighters, who work alongside the volunteers.
While the contrast between getting paid for a job and volunteering is utterly stark, the cohesion between the two groups couldn't be stronger according to Michael Cox, the public information division chief for Anne Arundel County Fire Department.
"There may have been some problems with meshing back in the early days," said Cox. "But now everyone gets along great."
The career and volunteer firefighters share virtually everything, from locker rooms to sleeping quarters. When they're out on a call together, the difference becomes even less noticeable. Both the career and volunteer firefighters must receive the same state and federal certifications in order to be deemed "response certified."
Many who start out as volunteers eventually become career firefighters, which only adds to the cohesion of the group, according to Cox.
"A lot of guys start out as volunteers and then work their way over to the career side," explained Cox. "I actually started out as a volunteer before moving over to the county fire department."
They look out for each other too, according to Debbie Perry, the vice president of the West Annapolis Fire and Improvement Company.
"We're one big happy family, one hand helping the other," said Perry.
Alongside the volunteer firefighters, the county provides eight career firefighters per day shift, and seven for every night shift. The extra manpower seems to be an important thing for the West Annapolis Station, which has been extremely busy in recent months.
In August alone, the station responded to 640 emergency calls. Of those calls, 472 were medical-oriented and 145 were fire-related, according to Chief Cox. Those numbers are expected to rise, as the winter months usually mean higher call numbers, according to the Chief.
With funding coming from a mix of county money and fundraising efforts by the volunteer company, Perry explained that if something needs to be bought, there is hardly ever a struggle over who will foot the bill.
"If we're in need of something, sometimes the county will purchase it and sometimes we'll pay for it; it's never a problem because we work well together," said Perry.
The volunteer company fundraises through a variety of mediums, including hosting events in the community such as a car show at the Greene Turtle in Edgewater on Sept. 18. The volunteer company's fundraising seems to be recession proof as well. According to Perry, the volunteer company has seen little, if any, dip in fundraising over the past few years.
"I think, if anything, they [people] seem to give to the fire department above most anything else, whether it's $5 or $150, people find it in their hearts to give to the fire company" said Perry.