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Unions: Endangered fire company to stay open until Oct. 1

One of three Baltimore fire companies slated for closure will remain open until October, the fire unions said Friday.

Baltimore firefighters union president Rick Hoffman said he received a message from Fire Chief James Clack, alerting him that West Baltimore's Truck 10 will not close until Oct. 1.

"That will give the city more time to evaluate," Hoffman said of the postponement.

Hoffman said he believes the delay will give Clack more time to evaluate a proposal from City Councilman William "Pete" Welch to place advertisements on the side of firetrucks to raise money. Welch has said he does not know how much money could be raised by such ads.

The other two companies — East Baltimore's Truck 15 and Southeast Baltimore's Engine 11 — are still set for closure Monday, Hoffman said. All three had been set to close July 1, but the department postponed their closure — twice — in response to the storm that rocked Maryland last week.

Truck 10 is located in the 1500 block of of W. Lafayette Ave. in the Harlem Park neighborhood of West Baltimore; Squad 11 in the 5700 block of Eastern Ave. in the Hopkins Bayview neighborhood of Southeast Baltimore; and Truck 15 in the Broadway East neighborhood of East Baltimore.

The three fire companies ran 57 calls in a 24-hour period during cleanup from last week's storm, which knocked out power to more than 1 million Maryland residents.

"The fact that on the very first day these companies were slated to be closed, we had to keep them open because they were needed is proof positive that Chief [Jim] Clack's plan to permanently close them is not workable," Hoffman said. "The city is effectively admitting that the companies are necessary. We need them this week, and we will need them again soon. Emergencies are, by nature, unpredictable. Clack may feel he doesn't need these companies, until the next emergency arises."

Baltimore fire officers union president Michael Campbell said Clack called him with the news.

"I'm flabbergasted," he said of the decision to keep one truck open but not the other companies. "I have no idea what it signals. I thought this storm showed the citizens of Baltimore that these companies are needed. I'm disappointed. I don't see what keeping Truck 10 open for three more months is going to do."

Chief Kevin Cartwright, a Fire Department spokesman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Earlier in the week, he said in a statement that all city agencies were challenged by the disaster.

"It is a very common practice for the department to cease rotating closures during severe weather-related events or man-made disasters and redeploy resources as appropriately necessary to manage the crisis," he said.

luke.broadwater@baltsun.com

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