Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Three city fire companies will disband, four more must find new homes. It’s part of the fire department’s efforts to do away with rotating closures.
Derek Valcourt explains it’s a major shuffle of fire crews and equipment.
It’s important to note that no firefighters will lose their jobs and no fire stations will be closed. But this is a big shuffle of fire personnel and equipment and some worry it leaves city residents at risk.
For every engine and fire truck, there’s a company of 24 firefighters assigned to work them. But under a new city plan, three city fire companies– Truck 10 on the West side, Truck 15 on the East side and Squad 11 on the far East side– will be disbanded. Those firefighters will permanently be reassigned to other fire companies. This is a move the fire chief says will not affect citizens in emergencies.
“We are going to be there just as quick as we are today,” Jim Clack, chief of the Baltimore City Fire Department, said.
To ensure response times don’t suffer, several other fire companies will be relocated to new fire stations. It’s all part of a plan to eliminate the rotating closures forced on them by the city’s budget three years ago.
But the move upsets many firefighters who say the department has already been cut to the bone.
“The citizens of Baltimore are at risk and so are the firefighters that wear these uniforms,” Rick Hoffman, president of the Baltimore City Firefighters’ Union, said.
Firefighters say the ladder truck in Locust Point is a perfect example of their concerns. It is being relocated downtown, but this truck will still be the first ladder truck responding to problems downtown all the way over to Fort McHenry.
“I gotta wait for a downtown truck company to get here. In downtown traffic, that’s crazy,” Hoffman said.
Clack says their strategic analysis shows trucks at nearby fire stations can cover the affected areas without increasing response times. But that’s a hard pill to swallow for residents in the affected areas like Patterson Park where Ladder Truck 15 will no longer be staffed.
“They can say whatever they want but the fact is, it’s going to take longer for the truck to get here because it’s further away,” Paul Cash, a resident of Patterson Park, said.
The new plan takes effect July 1.
The new plan also means temporary demotions for nine firefighter lieutenants and six firefighter captains. The chief says they will be re-promoted once there are new openings.
For a detailed look at the Baltimore City Fire Department’s analysis, click here.