Baltimore City Fire Department investigating dispatch issue during Friday fire

Posted at 11:14 PM, Aug 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-28 23:14:35-04

Fire officials say they're looking into whether a dispatch issue delayed response to a fire in Waverly.

According to Baltimore City Fire Captain John Parker, firefighters with Engine 31 saw a house burning on the 1600 block of Chilton St. last Friday, but were ordered to standby and wait for other crews dispatched just minutes beforehand.

"When you're that close and you're in service, we train for that. We prepare for that," he said. "It's frustrating when you can't provide service to the community."

According to Department memos obtained by ABC2 News, the city is testing a new system that tracks fire vehicle locations by GPS. The goal of Automatic Vehicle Location is to find the crews closest to an emergency. However, Parker says that when nearby unit becomes available after a fire is reported, that unit can be skipped.

"You might be four blocks away and closer. In that case, it missed that unit."

Parker says that's exactly what happened Friday night.

Residents of Chilton St. also expressed frustration. George Pinchback lives across the street from Friday's fire and says the wasted minutes could have cost a life. Luckily, that didn't happen.

"If somebody's in that house and they burned up because they wouldn't turn that water on, then I would help them sue the fire department, because that's not right," Pinchback said.

Monday, Baltimore City Fire changed its policy, according to a department memo. Now, Battalion Chiefs will be able to add nearby firefighters to an assignment, if they become available after crews have already been assigned. Parker hopes the change will prevent similar situations from happening in the future.

"It's an improvement to what's going on," he said.