Fire department captains of companies facing closure are calling on community support in hopes that citizen outcries will help their life-saving services from the chopping block. Announced in the mayor’s budget last month, three firehouses have been proposed for closure by July 1, which is the start of the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

The cuts have been proposed in efforts to close the $46 million deficit currently facing the city. “The bottom line is it’s all about money,” said House Captain B. Alder Jr., of Engine 10 in the 1500 of Lafayette Avenue.

“We are suffering, Parks and Recs is suffering, but yet, they keep funneling money to other departments,” said Alder, who’s frustrated with the proposed million dollar investment going into expanding the Charm City Circulator, a free city bus, while funds are being cut for services that save human lives. Also up for permanent closure is Truck 15 of East Baltimore, and Squad 11, which is stationed on the 5700 block of Eastern Ave. and serves out of Bayview Hospital. The men and women of these companies are the only hope for Baltimoreans that find themselves counting the milliseconds between life and death as they wait for the search and rescue teams on fire trucks.

“We are the first line of defense so we take numerous medic responses,” said Alder, who believes that while the fire department is a major help, they hardly get the credit they deserve for keeping certain statistics down in the city.

“If it wasn’t for the fire department’s EMS service, how high would the murder rate be?” asks Alder. Fire Chief Kevin Cartwright, spokesperson for the BCFD says that the closings are no reason for the public to panic, as response times will only get better. “Simply what we’re doing is redeploying fire department resources,” said Cartwright.

“Two fire engines and one fire truck will not be operating, they will be placed on a reserve status in a fire station. We’re just moving more fire engines and fire trucks around so that we can continue to maintain the same level of protection.”

“We are actually expecting our response times to get better in the near future.

Personnel changes are not going to have any bearing on emergency response times.” Still, captains of the closing trucks and engines beg to differ, and they are hoping that leaders of the faith community and concerned citizens will make their voices heard to stop the closures.

“You can’t remove companies and expect response time to go up–the response time is going to go down,” said Alder, who has been a member of the Baltimore City Fire Department (BCFD) since 1974, and a captain since 1995. Truck 10 has been recognized more than 40 times for the lives they have claimed from burning structures.

“We are not the busiest truck in the city, we’re about third. We are the busiest fire truck, which means we get more working fires than any other truck in the city,” said Alder. With Truck 10 and their counterpart Truck 15 closing, companies now have even more ground to cover. But BCFD top officials insist that response time will get better.

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer