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Bill to change how Baltimore firefighters respond to vacant home fires faces criticism from fire department, unions

Baltimore City Hall
Posted at 9:34 PM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 23:13:34-04

BALTIMORE — The threat of vacant homes and the dangers they pose to Baltimore City firefighters was at the center of discussion during a City Council committee hearing Wednesday.

“Being known as an aggressive, interior firefighting organization is something that maybe, maybe should not be consistently applauded, but reevaluated,” said City Councilwoman Daniele McCray.

McCray introduced the legislation called the "Firefighter Safety Act" after three firefighters died when a vacant home collapsed.

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“While some have inferred that this legislation is a knee jerk reaction to the tragedy that occurred January 24, 2022, I believe it’s a call to action,” McCray said.

Officials address issues following vacant home fires

The bill looks to—among many things—change how firefighters respond to vacant homes.

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McCray added, “and an attempt to address the practice of a culture that continuously put firefighters at risk.”

Baltimore City Fire Chief Niles Ford raised concerns about the bill during the hearing.

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He said some components of the bill are procedures the department currently follows.

Ford also raised concerns about requiring firefighters to wear thermal imaging cameras

“What [the camera] is going to help you do is know where the fire is, know where the hot spots are,” he said. “It’s not going to tell you the condition of the building,” he said. “Every incident, every structure, every situation is different.”

Presidents of both firefighters unions in Baltimore sent a statement saying, “while we applaud the efforts to improve working conditions, we have reservations as to the aspects of the bill that legislate foreground operations that could prove problematic.”