Although a stubborn stump fire near Interstate 70 has taxed its resources, the Baltimore County Fire Department has refused help from Baltimore City, saying the city's three-person fire crews are inadequate.
"We have extremely strong feelings about manning levels and [the] ability to be effective on fire grounds," Battalion Chief Ralph A. Nelson, a Baltimore County Fire Department spokesman, said yesterday.
Because of budgetary problems, Baltimore City fire engines have
been operating with three firefighters rather than four since last year.
The city firefighters union has insisted that the lower staffing levels represent a significant risk to firefighters, a complaint they have aired to council members.
Chief Nelson said Baltimore County had a working agreement with its firefighters that required four firefighters on a pumper and five on a ladder truck.
"Barring a natural disaster, that is the safest route to go, and management supports that 100 percent," he said.
He said county fire officials met this week to discuss the stump fire at the Patapsco Valley Tree Farm in the 8700 block of Dogwood Road that has been fought with at least nine pumpers since it started Saturday.
During those discussions, they considered requesting assistance from Baltimore through a mutual aid agreement that has been in existence for a number of years.
The program allows for the transfer of firefighters and fire equipment from one jurisdiction to another to cover firehouses that are left vacant.
The county fire officials, however, agreed not to call on the city because of its staffing levels.
Capt. Patrick P. Flynn, spokesman for the city's Fire Department, responded with anger to the charge.
"I don't appreciate them going around bad-mouthing us. Our three are as good as their eight. We're the best, no doubt about it," he said. "To hear this other [expletive], I'm tired of it. We would have had that stump fire out long ago. It's just a dump fire. Why don't they put the thing out?"
Captain Flynn said that if Baltimore County was not satisfied with the mutual aid agreement between the jurisdictions, "maybe they should draw up other guidelines."
Chief Nelson said for now, volunteer fire departments throughout the county, working around-the-clock, were adequately filling the void caused by the stump fire.
"It is an unbelievable display of dedication," he said. "They are volunteering their time by taking off from work with no compensation."