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Council members raise concerns with state of Baltimore City Fire Department

Posted at 6:12 PM, Dec 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-08 09:22:49-05

BALTIMORE — Just days after a shake up in Baltimore City Fire Department’s leadership, the acting chief and head staffers are addressing major concerns with the equipment needed to do the job.

Officials reported Wednesday afternoon, the department is down five long ladder trucks essential to saving lives in emergency situations.

Council members are demanding a timeline to address that key shortage among others.

“I will say that I am deeply concerned about the overall functioning of this department at this moment,” said Councilman Zeke Cohen.

Cohen, among several of his colleagues, shared their worries about the state of BCFD citing a recent report released about the South Stricker street fire that left 3 firefighters dead almost a year ago.

It caused the eight year Chief Niles Ford heading the department at that time to resign last week.

“Showed patterns and practices of what I would say is shotty management, shotty leadership, folks lost their lives as a result,” described Cohen.

The city is shifting the focus to acquiring emergency response equipment that has a serious shortage currently.

Baltimore City Firefighter Union representative shed light on the significance of those shortages.

“We have a total of 17 that are permanently staffed. We are down 5. That is a 30 percent reduction in our ability to respond with those units and this is not because we don’t have the staffing for it. It’s not because we don’t have the funding for it. It’s because we don’t have the specific apparatus for it,” said Union President Josh Fannin.

Fire officials reported they would need to purchase 4 engines and 2 trucks per year to maintain their goal of replacing engines and trucks more than 10 years old.

Right now one of the oldest engines in service will turn 20 years old in just a few weeks.

BCFD staffers attributed the shortage to a cut in funding between 2009 and 2014 where only 8 engines and 4 trucks were purchased

Where 24 engines and 12 trucks should’ve been purchased.

But there was an aggressive increase in purchases from 2015 to now where some orders haven’t been received.

In part because of covid and supply chain issues both having costly effect in Baltimore and beyond.

“Every department in the country is waiting for a new truck to be built for 3 and half years now. That’s the new time line for a truck. So everybody’s scouring the internet and talking to their people and anything that comes up that’s really a great piece of apparatus they’re snatching it up,” shared a BCFD staffer in the department’s defense.

Fire Department officials vowed to update council members with a potential timeline of their progress no later than the 21st of January.

In the meantime, the city is on the search for a new fire chief and a slew of much needed equipment.