Firefighters fault weekend staffing at city stations

October 31, 1990

The Schmoke administration expected to return the staffing levels on Baltimore fire engines to four men by September. But crews are still running short, and union officials said yesterday that they have received no indication of when full staffing will resume.

Jeffrey A. DeLisle, the firefighters union president, told members of the City Council that the staffing level in many stations has returned to four men during the week but that the department does not have enough manpower to maintain that level on the weekends.

He said fire engine crews run with four men "when it's convenient to the department."

Citing budget problems, the Fire Department cut back the manning June 3. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Fire Department officials said then the cutback was a temporary measure until the fire academy graduated enough personnel to properly staff the crews.

The unions representing firefighters and officers have been battling ever since to return the crews to four men. Union officials -- who have taken the case to court -- argue that the cutbacks have affected firefighting efficiency and jeopardized the safety of their members.

Mr. DeLisle updated City Council members on the status of the staffing levels during a council hearing on legislation that would mandate four-man crews under law. Neither Fire Chief Peter J. O'Connor nor members of the fire board attended the hearing.

Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, D-5th, said the council would ask the fire board to adopt as department policy a four-man staffing level.

Mrs. Spector, who chairs the committee handling the fire crew legislation, said if the board does not adopt such a policy that she would bring the legislation to the fullcouncil for its consideration nextweek.

"We'll fight fire with fire," she said.

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