Neighbors protest plan to cut firetruck

Hampden residents protest O'Malley's reorganization plans

'We deserve to be protected'

June 25, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

About 50 people stopped by the Hampden firehouse yesterday to voice their opposition to the mayor's plan to remove the station's only hook-and-ladder truck.

"We pay taxes, and we deserve to be protected," said Bruce Holtman, 50, who organized yesterday's rally. The Hampden resident has helped collect 5,000 signatures on a petition asking Mayor Martin O'Malley to reconsider his decision.

The mayor announced plans last month to remove Truck 9 from the Hampden firehouse as part of his proposal to streamline the city fire department. Yesterday's rally was the second held at the firehouse in the 3700 block of Roland Ave.

O'Malley plans to close seven fire stations in Baltimore in an effort to save the city $4 million to $5 million a year, money he would like to use to put more ambulances on the streets - including a second ambulance in Hampden.

It was not clear yesterday where Truck 9 would be used. Firefighters at the Hampden station said they could not comment.

"Fire suppression service will not be affected by this at all," said Tony White, the mayor's spokesman, who noted that "trial runs have been made from nearby fire stations."

O'Malley's plan has been criticized by community groups, union officials and some City Council members. At the dedication of a new $2.5 million firehouse in Northeast Baltimore last month, city firefighters picketed in protest of the proposed closings.

Organizers of yesterday's rally in Hampden waved at passers-by and urged them to sign their petition.

"The residents here helped put the mayor in office, and if he doesn't reverse this decision, we'll vote him out," said Stuart Naquin, who has lived across the street from the firehouse since 1984.

Like many Hampden residents, Naquin owns a wood-frame home that was built in the late 1800s. He is worried about the safety of his home, and those of his neighbors', should the hook-and-ladder truck be removed from the neighborhood.

"I'm afraid there will be a big difference in the response time if this truck isn't here," said Naquin. "These old homes could go up in flames in a matter of minutes."

Hampden, a working-class neighborhood of modest row houses and high-rise apartment buildings, would be left with a single engine.

Del. James W. Campbell attended yesterday's rally.

"I know the mayor has to make difficult decisions, but I'm concerned about this fire truck being removed," said Campbell, a Baltimore Democrat. "We have two senior citizen high-rise buildings within two blocks of the firehouse."

It was, however, the presence of the older residents that persuaded O'Malley to remove the hook-and-ladder truck and add an ambulance in Hampden, said White.

Campbell and his colleagues from the 42nd District have sent a letter to O'Malley, urging him to reconsider his decision. The issue will be discussed tomorrow at a community meeting at Roosevelt Recreation Center, 1221 W. 36th St. The meeting begins at 7 p.m.

Holtman said he plans to collect additional signatures at the meeting and present the community's petition to the mayor this week.

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