2 fire stations to stay open

Mayor, council agree on deal giving city 4 new ambulances

`Gets us the bottom line'

June 06, 2000|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF

Two fire stations, one on each side of Baltimore, will remain open under a compromise worked out between Mayor Martin O'Malley and the City Council.

O'Malley had sought to close seven stations and use the approximately $4 million in savings to put more ambulances on the street. His proposal was based on a Greater Baltimore Committee report and longstanding knowledge in the fire department that most of the department's calls are for medical services and not fires.

Yesterday, O'Malley said the deal allows him to meet his goals for the department.

"It still gets us the bottom line that we needed," he said.

Truck 15 in the 1200 block of N. Montford Ave. on the east side will remain open, along with Engine 52 in the 3500 block of Woodbrook Ave. Fire Chief Herman Williams said the engine in West Baltimore will remain on duty until the department builds a "superstation" in Edmondson Village. That station is expected to be completed within two years.

Closing fire stations has long been a touchy issue throughout the city. Residents take comfort in neighborhood stations, and fire union officials fight to save jobs. When O'Malley proposed closing seven stations, councilmembers, the fire union and residents rejected the plan, saying it put lives at risk and could increase response times to emergencies.

Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young, sponsored a bill that led to a public hearing on the issue with both sides bringing projectors, charts and statistics. Yesterday, Chief Williams defended the closings.

"We're not just willy-nilly doing this. We have to make sure we have coverage where it's needed," he said. "I mean, the city's changed over the last 10 or 15 years."

Williams said nearly 70 percent of the department's calls are for medical services. Most of the runs by fire trucks and engines are not for fires. A report from the mayor's office found that on average fire trucks and engines are in service less than two hours a day, while the city's 18 ambulances average more than 14 hours each day.

As part of the compromise the city will get four additional ambulances this year, rather than the six sought by O'Malley. The other two ambulances will be added next year.

"By adding more medic units we'll be able to keep more engines and truck companies for fires," said Williams, adding that using fire engines and trucks for medic runs "is really not a good use of equipment."

The compromise also calls for the fire department taking two trucks out of service, one on Harford Road, the other on Roland Avenue in Hamden. Chief Williams pointed out that the stations where those trucks were based still have a fire engine and an ambulance. He also said he'll put another ambulance at the recently completed "superstation" on East 25th Street.

"We badly need the ambulance coverage in that area because currently a lot of 15 Truck's responses are for medic runs," he said.

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