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Baltimore City responded to fatal fire, break-ins at height of storm

Andre Richardson of Baltimore helps a police officer try to get his cruiser out of snow when his chains broke at Baltimore and Howard Streets as a strong snowstorm pummels the region in its second day.
Andre Richardson of Baltimore helps a police officer try to get his cruiser out of snow when his chains broke at Baltimore and Howard Streets as a strong snowstorm pummels the region in its second day. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore police officers and firefighters fought blinding snow and strong winds to respond to calls throughout the city Friday night and Saturday, including a deadly fire in Northeast Baltimore and a rash of pharmacy break-ins.

Both agencies were paired with Maryland National Guard Humvees to help them respond to calls Saturday. The National Guard also assisted the police and fire departments during back-to-back major snowstorms in February 2010.

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The amount of violent crime was "slim to none," and calls were down overall Saturday, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said. The department received 224 calls for service between midnight and 5 a.m., which is low, he said.

"The work of the Police Department goes on in spite of the snow," he said.

Officers made several arrests, including the arrest of a burglary suspect in the Southwest District and two separate handgun arrests in the Western District on Friday.

"We don't know what, if anything was taken," Davis said of the five pharmacy break-ins.

The break-ins occurred at Poplar Grove Pharmacy in the 700 block of Poplar Grove in West Baltimore, Best Care Pharmacy in the 1100 block of Pennsylvania Ave. in Upton, Rite Aid Pharmacy in the 200 block of McMechen St. in Bolton Hill, Frankfort Family Pharmacy in the 5400 block of Sinclair Lane in Frankford and Trinity Pharmacy in the 2200 block of Harford Road in East Baltimore. Officers remained at the scene of several stores Saturday.

Marquis Queen, 30, of the 2600 block of Molton Way in Milford Mill is charged with the burglary of the Hilton Quick Mart.

City police officers were working 12-hour shifts throughout the storm, with some in Humvees and others in unmarked SUVs to get through the heavy snow, he said.

Fire Department personnel had requested six National Guard Humvees and four 5-ton trucks, similar to what the department had for the 2010 storms, said Deputy Fire Chief Karl Zimmerman, who was responsible for the Fire Department's operations over the weekend.

"The biggest challenges we have — we have several of them — is access of the scene of the emergency, safely with all of our equipment," he said.

It is very difficult driving fire equipment in the snow, Zimmerman said. The city sends a plow near the scene to help fire trucks maneuver, he said. Humvees and snow chains on fire trucks help, too.

A man died in an early-morning fire at a home in the Perring Loch neighborhood. Firefighters were called at 5:49 a.m. to the 1900 block of Hillenwood Road, and the road was plowed by the time they arrived, spokesman Samuel Johnson, said.

"Our units did not have an issue with responding," Fire Chief Niles Ford said.

The department did not have information about the victim's name or age, or a cause for the fire.

"Our people are pretty good at adapting," said Zimmerman, adding that it helped that there were several days to prepare for the storm.

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Before coming to work ahead of a big snow, Zimmerman said he packs four changes of clothes, four uniforms, boots and cold-weather gear.Starting at 5 p.m. Friday through Monday, he said the department relaxed its uniform policy to allow employees to bundle up, especially those who respond to medical calls.

And just like everyone else who made last-minute trips to the grocery store, he said, firefighters stocked up on low-maintenance meals for the firehouse.

"A lot of times the go-to is meatloaf," he said. And, of course, "lots of coffee."

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