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Published: Wednesday, 9/12/2007

Sylvania Twp. Maryland man hired as new fire chief Applicant is veteran of 33 years' service

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A University Park, Md., man who has 33 years of experience managing fire departments has been selected to head the Sylvania Township Fire Department.

Frederick Welsh, 50, begins his duties in the township Oct. 1.

The chief's job has been vacant since February, when Chief Christopher Maurer retired.

Mr. Welsh has been the planning manager in the Division of Volunteer Services for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service in Maryland since March, 2005. The county department, which covers 497 square miles, is located in suburban Washington.

In addition, Mr. Welsh has been chief of the College Park, Md., Volunteer Fire Department since January, 2000.

Mr. Welsh began his career in October, 1974, with a fire department near Philadelphia. He grew up just outside that city.

During his career, he has served as an emergency response consultant, the fire chief at a San Francisco-area refinery, and a fire chief in the Republic of Kazakhstan, where his department included more than 200 former Soviet Union firefighters and paramedics.

"An interesting deal was that I had a full-time interpreter," he said. Although the experience half-way round the world was interesting, "after 13 to 14 months, I wanted to come home," Mr. Welsh said.

He comes to Sylvania Township at a time when some residents, and some firefighters, are at odds with the trustees over fire department operations.

"Positions that the different groups and different people have taken are very appropriate and reasonable positions even though there is a difference," he said.

Trustees, he said, are trying to provide the best government for the lowest tax they can, adding that he thinks voters elect officials to provide the best product and services for the lowest possible taxes.

Firefighters, he said, are advocating to improve existing stations and to provide the best services possible, a position that is not unreasonable.

The key, he said, is to bring both sides together and to look at the whole picture. What's needed, he said, is open, two-way, respectful communication. If that happens, then the city, the township, and those who dial 911 and need help will benefit from the work and the compassionate desire to provide quality emergency services all the way around, he said.

DeeDee Liedel, president of the board of trustees, said Mr. Welsh "will be a wonderful addition to our fire department and a great addition to our community."

She noted his extensive experience in working with full-time, career firefighters, and volunteer firefighters.

Adding volunteer firefighters to the township's department has been mentioned during recent meetings of the trustees, who are continuing to closely monitor the department's staffing levels as well as its financial situation.

The department, which operates four stations, is a combination department. Its staff includes about 40 full-time firefighters and several part-paid firefighters.

If the department added volunteer firefighters to its roster, it could provide a higher level of service at an efficient cost, Ms. Liedel said.

Mr. Welsh said he was drawn to Sylvania Township in part because of its mainstream America, hometown atmosphere.

It's a place where "people live, work, go to school, and raise their families," he said.

Mr. Welsh and his wife, Paula, and their children Patrick, 7, and Katie, 3, plan to live in the township. The new chief will be paid $85,000 annually. Trustees voted 3-0 last week to hire him.

There were 33 applicants, including three from the township fire department.



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