Reporting Monique Griego
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– By the end of this weekend, three of Baltimore’s fire companies will shut down for good. The companies are disbanding in a cost-cutting move by the city and that’s raising alarm for people who live nearby.
Monique Griego explains why the fire department is defending the decision.
The city is closing the companies because of budget cuts, but many residents and firefighters think it’s a dangerous decision.
June 11: A raging fire tore through a Fells Point warehouse. Days later, a man and two dogs are killed by flames in East Baltimore.
“We have very few firefighters right now. So we need as much as we can get right now,” Cesar Romero said.
Fast-moving fires are why Romero can’t believe the city is disbanding three of its 55 fire companies, including one at the fire station near his Hopkins Bayview neighborhood.
“I don’t think they’re going to be able to respond in case of fire,” he said.
The closures take effect Sunday and were approved as part the mayor’s plan to reduce the deficit.
“No fire stations are closing. Nobody’s being laid off. Nobody is being demoted,” Baltimore City Fire Chief James Clack said. “It’s reassigning three companies worth of firefighters to other companies so that we can end the practice of doing rolling brownouts.”
Rolling brownouts meant companies rotated closures, but Clack believes a permanent decision adds stability their response.
Despite losing three companies, he was adamant that response times will not be affected.
But not everyone, including some City Council members, buy that.
“I am worried about our backup and our ability to have enough men and women and equipment to serve our needs,” City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said.
Romero hopes the city finds the money to stop closures somewhere.
“I would hope for them to reconsider and keep the fire department like it is right now,” he said.
The firefighters’ union has also spoken out against the closures. According to Councilwoman Clarke, Baltimore City needs $6 million to keep the three fire companies up and running.
In addition to the company near Hopkins Bayview, a company in Harlem Park and Broadway East are being disbanded.