Fire department ready, willing, ableYour June 2 editorial...


June 14, 1996

Fire department ready, willing, able

Your June 2 editorial ("Can't skimp on fire protection") hit the mark on many issues regarding the Baltimore Fire Department. Yes, the number of firefighters employed by the department is smaller today. Yes, the incidence of fires has continued to escalate in the city. Yes, the department is experiencing a deficit in its overtime budget. But the implication is that all of this has occurred in a management vacuum. It has not.

Since my appointment in April 1992, and with the support of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, the Fire Department has been able to enhance its fleet with the purchase of 12 fire engines, seven fire trucks, a new command vehicle, a hazardous materials vehicle, a collapse rescue vehicle, a special operation van, a SCUBA van and 18 medic units. This has been the largest procurement of fire apparatus in Baltimore since 1973.

Incidentally, contrary to what you would have the public believe, every fire engine in the fleet meets National Fire Protection Association standards as a Class A pumper. The support from the mayor has also meant a dramatic improvement in the safety equipment issued to firefighters.

Couple this support with the management that my staff has provided and what has developed is a pro-active team of managers ready to handle the fire safety needs of the citizens of Baltimore. To suggest that we are helplessly "juggling" resources is a disservice based on misinformation. It can only erode the public's confidence in a department that is ready, willing and able to serve.

Herman Williams Jr.


E9 The writer is chief of the Baltimore Fire Department.

Smith Island cats didn't deserve fate

I am writing in response to the excerpt you reprinted in the June 9 Sun from Tom Horton's new book, "An Island Out of Time."

What started out as a quaint piece of Smith Island ''folksiness'' quickly turned into one of the most depressing and disturbing articles ("The day the fur flew") I have ever read in your paper.

What was the purpose? Did we really need to read the horrific way the cats died? Surely there must have been more appropriate chapters you could have chosen?

I, and probably many others, see absolutely no joy, no humor, no irony in the death of an animal. The cats, even though they were a nuisance, did not deserve to die that way. And you certainly didn't need to print it in your paper.

Carol L. Griffin


Visitor recalls a talk in Moscow

Reading your May 26 editorial, "The babushka vote," reminded me of my trip on the Trans-Siberian railroad through Russia in 1991, shortly before the ejection of Mikhail Gorbachev.

Fortunately, a Russian family recommended to me by a mutual friend took me into their home for my three days in Moscow. The mother of the two adult children in the family dredged up her college English, unused for these many years, and we went shopping for bread during the days when no other food was in the stores, and one even had no bread.

That night we talked quietly together while the others in the family were gone. She stated her political position and her reasons for it. New to the privilege of voting, she then said words that thrilled me: "Voting is a big responsibility."

She, like many non-babushka city residents, cleverly managed to feed and clothe her family well. She cherished her paintings and cultural treasures in her crowded apartment. She wished only for a pleasant and secure life with her family and friends.

Yes, many working families, like this one, have this type of voter. But to label all of these middle-aged women as babushkas demeans them and mars the picture of women in Russia.

Thelma L. Jones


Special Olympics rewarding for all

I volunteered for the fourth year as a clown at the Special Olympics, held at Towson State University last weekend.

Each year, I come away so uplifted and so filled with admiration for this event. The participants are beautiful, loving people whose simplicity is charming.

The administration of it is no small feat, and the wonderful volunteers who coach during the year preparing the athletes deserve much praise. But also what astounds me is the number of people who stay with the participants, or who entertain in some way, despite the heat and humidity.

Next year, participate or at least go and observe. It is awesome.

Elizabeth R. Schreiber


Marriage faces bigger threats than from gays

William Bennett's comments struck us as we read his comments regarding lesbian and gay marriage in the June 2 Perspective section.

The right wing's arguments for denying lesbians and gay men their constitutional rights are made out of fear and ignorance. They seem to need to protect the heterosexual illusion of the perfect family structure. Negative arguments are always centered around gay promiscuity, special privileges and "converting" heterosexuals.

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