Schmoke supports taking 2 fire engines off streets

March 22, 1995|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writer

Amid continuing complaints and pressure from the Baltimore City Council, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday stood by a decision to take two fire engines off the streets.

Mr. Schmoke supported disbanding the two engines, saying the move would reduce escalating overtime costs and is part of a broader reorganization of the Fire Department.

With nearly 1,800 firefighters and fire officers, Baltimore has a greater per capita force than almost any other major city in the nation except Boston, he said.

The mayor's defense came a day after the 19-member council unanimously approved a resolution calling on his administration to reconsider removing Engine 32, at the Old Town station, and Truck 4, at McCulloh and McMechen streets, from their stations. The firefighters assigned to the two engines are being moved to other station houses.

"We don't agree," Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi said yesterday. "There should never be cuts in public safety. It's as simple as that."

The 6th District councilman, who introduced the resolution Monday night, said firefighters and community leaders alike opposed the plan at a council hearing last week.

Fourth District Councilwoman Agnes Welch also said she has received numerous calls from concerned residents in the Upton and Druid Heights neighborhoods about the removal of Truck 4. "We need what we need for our people to see that they are safe," she said.

Yesterday, Mayor Schmoke blamed his political rival, City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, for misleading the public about the Fire Department reorganization.

"People who have asked me about it feel they have been misled, particularly by the council president, concerning these fire stations," he said. "They think it's the first step in closing, which is absolutely untrue."

Fire Chief Herman Williams Jr. said he was trying to cut overtime costs at a time when city finance officers are trying to keep the department to $92.7 million in the coming fiscal year.

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