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Indians, but no chief, at fire closing hearing

fischer, segal, dixon of BCFD

James Fischer, Jeffrey Segal and Dickson Henry represented the fire department at today’s Council hearing on proposed fire company closures.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

((UPDATE, Friday, May 4: Fire department spokesman Kevin Cartwright said Chief Clack was “on a pre-arranged visit out of town that didn’t afford him the liberty of being present” at the City Council hearing yesterday. He added that “this information had been communicated to the Council prior to the actual hearing” and that assistant fire chiefs Henry and Segal “were present to respond to inquiries by the Council.”))

A City Council hearing on the proposed closing of three Baltimore fire companies was abruptly recessed this afternoon when it became apparent that Baltimore Fire Chief James S. Clack was not going to appear before the panel.

No reason was given for Clack’s no-show.

Three top aides who attended the hearing told The Brew they had no idea where the chief was. Questioned about his whereabouts, departmental spokesman Kevin Cartwright was also in the dark, saying, “I haven’t spoken with him.”

Clack had been asked to testify before the council’s public safety committee chaired by Warren Branch, whose East Baltimore District is slated to lose Truck Company 15 in the coming budget.

Assistant Fire Chief Dickson J. Henry as well as Assistant Chief Jeffrey R. Segal did not appear prepared to give testimony to the panel.

Councilmen Warren Branch, Brandon Scott and Sharon Green Middleton confer before calling a halt to today's hearing. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Councilmen Warren Branch, Brandon Scott and Sharon Green Middleton confer before calling a halt to today's hearing. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

After several false starts at questioning them, Bernard C. “Jack” Young, president of the City Council, said the hearing should be recessed because only Chief Clack could adequately respond to the department’s proposed closing of three of the city’s 53 fire companies.

“It’s his plan,” Young said.

Councilman Branch agreed, and the public safety committee – which consists of Councilmen William H. Cole IV, Sharon Green Middleton, Nick Mosby and vice chair Brandon M. Scott – voted to recess the hearing until further notice.

More than 50 city firefighters were in the audience.

They clapped loudly when Young called the department’s plan to close Truck 10 in Harlem Park, Truck 15 in Broadway East/Berea and Squad 11 in Bayview/Greektown “unacceptable” and an attempt to “pit neighborhoods” against each other.

Truck 6 to Remain at Locust Point

The agency announced today it would keep Truck 6 at the Locust Point Fire Station rather than transfer the ladder to the John F. Steadman Fire Station at the downtown Bromo-Seltzer Tower.

Assistant Chief Segal said the decision was based on a re-evaluation by headquarters and “some other factors at play.” Councilman Cole, who represents Locust Point, has strenuously lobbied against the planned move.

Fire officials said the proposed closings, as well as other proposed redeployments of equipment, would not affect fire response times, but would save the city an unspecified amount of money.

Firefighters interviewed by The Brew disagree, saying the department’s plans are based on a “static” computer model. Some areas of the city, they say, would have sparser coverage if several fire units were on runs and not in their stations at the same time.

Baltimore currently lags slightly behind national standards for response times. Since 2009, the agency has relied on rotating station closures to reduce operating costs.

The Rawlings-Blake administration has proposed closing three fire companies, but said it would not lay off firefighters and would keep current stations open by reshuffling equipment.

About 50 firefighters attended today's abbreviated Council hearing. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

About 50 firefighters attended today's abbreviated Council hearing. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

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  • Ktrueheart

    Wow!

    • Ed calvert

      It’s Obvious to me that the chief and his assistant are not interested in the safety of the firefighters and citizens of Baltimore City…I can safely say as a retired firecaptain with the Baltimore County Fire Department, that the closing of the fire stations is a mistake that will have serious life safety consequences…What Baltimore City needs to do is throw out the chief and lock the door behind him….

  • Public Safety FIRST

    The two incompetent Chiefs that he sent received a substantial raise in the last couple of months, they are nothing more then leaches on the Fire Department’s payroll. Administrator Clack is a joke, he does not care about Baltimore, it’s residents or it’s Fire Fighters, he is here to make his 150K a year plus benefits and will pack his bags when there is nothing left for him to destroy. Clack has destroyed one of the most recognized Fire department’s in the nation, the moral is at an all time low and the Baltimore City Fire department has turned into the laughingstock  of Maryland’s Fire Services.  The Mayor should reevaluate her decision to keep him around, because as his reputation goes down the toilet so does hers.

  • Johnnie882

     I COMPLETELY agree with Public Safety FIRST. Point is, he can’t even explain why he made the decisions he did. The ultimate is not to even SHOW UP for the meeting, just not show. And yes, someone knew where he was.

  • realitychecker56

    Clack is next.

  • http://www.vaeth4senator.com/ySenate.html Brian Vaeth

    What a disappointment for the citizens of Baltimore. Any statement concerning the plummeting reputation of our Fire Department should not be directed at the actions of the membership but the blame should be directed at and rests solely on Chief Clack. The membership of the department includes the very best firefighters in the world. I know because I have worked with them. They take pride in the job that they do and are not thinking about the money when they run into burning buildings and when responding to medical emergencies at 3:30 in the morning, after fighting a couple fires earlier in the evening. It happens! While stationed at Truck 1, my shift had 4 working fires in one night. My point is that despite being under constant attack by the Mayor’s Office for the past decade, they continue to provide their very best despite it all.     

  • Ezff

    Clack no show–150K
    2 top aides—130K per
    not prepare—-priceless

  • Carol Ott

    It’s absolutely appalling to think that our Mayor would be willing to put the lives of residents at risk by cutting our fire department.  

    Car races, convention centers, and office remodels don’t save lives — BCFD does.  End the rotating closures, and fully fund our fire department — before more lives are lost.

  • Rbvfc132000

    Clack has killed the moral of the fire department to the point where it may never recover. You sir are a joke and need to go back to where you came from. Instead of closing companies why dont you give up some of that 150k a year you make for sitting on your ass and kissing up to the mayor. The money would be better spent on firefighters safety, equipment and keeping companies open. The baltimore City Fire Serivce is one of the bussiest in the nation and its time that the men and women who work there got the respect that they have earned. God knows Chief Clack that you got a lot of talk but cant walk the walk of a city firefighter or paramedic. I would love to see you ride a medic unit for 14 hours and running 15 to 20 calls a night or riding Truck 10 or truck 15 with equipment that is held together with what ever the members can find to keep it working. Youe sir need to go and the time is now.

  • JEHenderson1

    Its no secret that the Chief is out of town, Assistant Chief Henry has been signing orders that say Acting Chief of Fire Department.  Im no rocket scientist or anything but that tells me he knew the Chief was out of town and he was appointed to watch over things.  I think he needs to put on Civil Service Rule 56 for flat out lying to city council…

  • Sadcasdsa

    Every time they want to raise taxes they threaten to close fire stations or lay off police. Wake up people, and stop falling for the same old terror tactics!

  • justanobody

    Why is it…the excuse for closing fire houses is that the population of the city is declining (and yes, it has from a bit over 1mil, to its current 620,000) but this same excuse doesn’t apply to the school system and the police department?  

  • The Gambler

    I would like to see those chiefs work a 4 day shift at the proposed houses to be closed and then look themselves in the mirrorr, hold their head high while they wear a dress uniform and sign the order to cut the houses. To save their jobs, they can and will do this. They have sold their souls for a dollar! God will make them answer eventually. Atleast the men and women of the BALTIMORE CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT can sleep at night knowing that we give ALL  for the citizens of Baltimore and fight the city on a continuous basis to give us the adequate resources to SERVE the city that we SWORE to protect. Mayor Blake use to come to firehouses for breakfast when she was in the city council, now she avoids us. Dont worry Mayor, If you have a fire or a medical incident, we will still give you 100% service. I just hope there are enough of us around to respond to your needs before it is TOO late.  P.S. To the citizens of Baltimore. Please do not jump out of the window when your house is on fire. Simply position yourself out of the window and hang by your finger tips on the window sill. Now listen for the sirens. I know it sounds like they are far away, THAT”S BECAUSE THEY ARE!!!!!!!!

    When you play MUSICAL CHAIRS, somebody has to lose. When you close a fire unit, somebody has to lose too! The blood from the fire deaths in Baltimore are on the POLITICIAN’s hands, NOT the members of the BCFD!

  • Expendable

    Our children’s children will hear tales about the mythical city of Baltimore, And about how some politico’s destroyed it from within. When the fires were raging. The Citizen cried out “Where is the Fire Dept.?” To which they will get a reply. “We haven’t got one anymore.”

    I suggest that all who wish to show their disgust about this travesty. Put a black flag out. The city council has shown no quarter to the and women who put their lives on the line. For a paltry 500 grand? They could get rid of some surplus equipment, and raise that.or ask a single dollar donation. I don’t live in Baltimore, but I’d be willing to send a buck or 20 to help keep these stations open.

    These closures are going to have dire consequences. When response time gets longer. Lives get lost easier.

    But don’t take it out on the men and women on the rigs. Thank City Hall, and The Dept. heads when it took too long to save that kid who was trapped in a building on fire, or the worker who was lost in that collapse because they couldn’t get to him in time.

    Remember the Bravery and Courage of men and women who fight where the devil dances.

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