There was a two alarm fire along the 400 block of South Monroe Street in the Carrollton Ridge neighborhood in Baltimore in December 2022. Photo courtesy of Baltimore Firefighters IAFF Local 734.

The Baltimore City Fire Department is proposing three different options to recoup its dwindling vehicle fleet of fire trucks but the scenarios as suggested to city leaders, may force the city council to make some hard decisions next budget cycle.

The fire department told city lawmakers last month that it is operating with 30% fewer fire engines than it needs to properly cover Baltimore City and keep residents safe when they call 911.

“We have a total of 17 fire companies that are permanently staffed, we’re down five,” Joshua Fannon, president of the Baltimore Fire Officers Association, told the city council’s Public Safety and Government Operations Committee. “This is not because we don’t have the staffing for it, it’s because we don’t have the physical apparatus for it. And that is an unacceptable situation and puts a lot of our members at risk.”

The department wants to avoid tragedies like the South Sticker Street fire last year, which killed three firefighters. The incident ultimately lead to the resignation of Fire Chief Niles Ford last month.

At the request of City Councilmember Zeke Cohen, who represents District 1 in southeast Baltimore, the fire department filed a report on what it would take to get back to a healthy fleet.

The brass tacks of the report is that the current budget is $24 million. There’s three options for the city: stay at the same funding level and the fleet will dwindle, add $7.5 million a year for moderate growth and a perfectly healthy fleet in 10 years or add $15 million a year and fix the fleet in 5 years.

One of the main issues is aging vehicles, which leads to more maintenance and time off duty.

Industry standards suggest that ambulances serve a lifespan of six years, engines 10 years and ladder trucks 15 years, according to the report obtained by WYPR.

Read more (and listen) at WYPR.

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