Clack: Baltimore fire department is keeping the city safe

September 16, 2010

Recent claims suggesting that fire and emergency medical response for the citizens of Baltimore have been diminished to dangerous levels are unfortunate and simply not accurate. ("Rawlings-Blake policies make Baltimore less safe," Readers respond, Sept. 14).

The facts: the number of fatal fires and fire deaths are at historic lows this year, and the number of structure fires continues to decrease. Credit for those accomplishments goes to the men and women of the Baltimore City Fire Department who work hard day and night to keep us all safe.

Despite having to manage a very difficult budget, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the City Council found a way to restore critical funding to the fire department. That commitment to public safety has allowed me to reduce the number of rotating fire company closures from four to three.

Most people are not aware that more than 80 percent of our 911 calls are actually Emergency Medical Services calls.

This year we have increased our investment in EMS. The mayor's fiscal 2011 budget included new funding for two medic assist cars to help us address frequent 911 callers, thereby reducing demand on our fire companies.

In fire prevention, funding has been dramatically increased for our free lithium battery smoke alarm program. I want every resident of Baltimore to know that the fire department will deliver and install new smoke alarms in their home — for free. New alarm technology means that these smoke alarms will last 10 years without changing the battery. The fire department's smoke alarm program has saved countless lives and will help us get to our goal of zero fire deaths.

Like the residents they faithfully serve, the men and women of the fire department have made many sacrifices over the last two years, but they continue to work hard and put themselves in harm's way to save our lives and property. I am proud to be their fire chief. Please join me and take a moment and thank them when you have the chance.

James S. Clack, Baltimore

The writer is chief of the Baltimore City Fire Department

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