Two engines' removal draws council fire

March 14, 1995|By Harold Jackson | Harold Jackson,Sun Staff Writer

An unexpected announcement that two fire engines are being taken off the street to reduce escalating overtime costs in the Fire Department was criticized last night by the Baltimore City Council, which asked that the action be postponed.

"This decision has been made by the bean counters," said City Council President Mary Pat Clarke. "There was never a hearing. There was never any warning to the council people."

Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres announced last week that Engine 32, at the Oldtown Station, and Truck 4, at McCulloh and McMechen streets, would be removed from their stations and the firefighters assigned to those apparatus moved to other station houses.

Mrs. Clarke said the moves were to occur this week.

The council voted to ask the department to delay any action until its budget committee can hold a public hearing on the matter and confer with Schmoke administration budget officials.

Mrs. Clarke said the department was experiencing heavy overtime because it had not filled more than 80 vacancies.

"We need to ask the budget people to back off and work with the fire chief and the council to get through this crisis that was the creation of a budget bureau that froze the training budget," she said.

Sixth District Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi said his district has had more fire service reductions in the last 15 years -- 13 truck companies and eight engine companies lost -- than any other in the city.

"I hope the administration hears what we're doing and reconsiders," Mr. DiBlasi said. "You don't play with fire."

Fourth District Councilman Lawrence A. Bell III said a message should be sent to the administration not to be "penny wise and pound foolish."

Fourth District Councilwoman Agnes Welch said she was "incensed" when she heard that two fire engines were being removed from a "corridor where we have had one firehouse close and within a few blocks of where we have a large area of dilapidated housing and people in need."

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