January 23, 2024
The Baltimore County Fire Union President is pointing to a fire in Catonsville as an example of why a system the county has in place now is not working and potentially creating danger for firefighters and residents.
Crews responded to a fire on Lambeth Road near Northdale Road Tuesday where someone was trapped inside a burning home. The victim was rescued and taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
It’s an indent that’s reigniting a hot topic.
Captain John Sibiga, president of Local 1311, says one fire engine had been placed out of service for that call in Catonsville.
Sibiga says, according to the department’s current policy, two engines are taken out of service during weekdays on a rotating basis at locations because of staffing and overtime issues.
Sibiga is ringing the alarm because he believes the practice puts firefighters and residents lives at risk when valuable time is lost when a second engine must respond from a distant location.
“Because if there is an incident, a fire, that’s actually there, they grow exponentially for every 30 seconds that nobody is there to making any attempt to mitigate the fire,” said Sibiga. “So, that’s obviously a critical time-sensitive need.”
Sibiga posted his latest concern on the union’s social media Tuesday saying in part: “The decision to rotate fire engine closures throughout the county is not working. No fire engines should be placed out of service for overtime issues.”
“Those engines and that equipment is there for specific reasons. it’s not like something that we just plop down in an area and just figured this is ok to be put out of service and everything will be fine,” said Sibiga.
Meanwhile, Baltimore County Fire Chief Joanne Rund believes there’s no safety threat–previously releasing a statement over union concerns, saying in part: “The Baltimore County Fire Department responds to 150,000 calls a year; every week we hear from residents pleased with and grateful for the service we provide.” Adding: “We will continue an aggressive agenda to strengthen our front-line response and to support our members.”
Still, Sibiga says, “making decisions solely and wholly on dollars and cents isn’t always the best, the best decision.”
Sibiga says there’s about 120 vacancies in the fire department–partly because of the county’s longer retirement requirement.