From the January 12,2011 FIREGEEZER 
By Captain Patrick Mahoney (Company Officer for a career department in Texas.)

In this month’s Firehouse magazine there is a short interview with Baltimore City’s Chief James S. Clack. Baltimore’s is one of many fire departments on the frontlines of the budget meltdown across the country. The interview touches on a number of important subjects with relevance to many of us. But what caught my eye and made me cock my head a little was his answer to the magazine’s question about public education. Chief Clack is rather proud of their “home-visit program” in which they knock on doors and ask to come inside to educate the citizenry. “The key is getting through that front door,” he says. Once through, they might install smoke detectors or educate the occupants on matters of “total-risk-reduction,” to include the proper way to put your baby to bed. This, Chief Clack tells us, is “the future of the fire service.”

The United States Census Bureau tells us that Baltimore’s population declined by 32% from 1960 to 2009. Chief Clack says various estimates place the number of vacant buildings in the city as high as 40,000. Over the same time the fire department went from 88 companies to 54, per Chief Clack. This is a reduction of about 39% overall. Further stretching the numbers are rolling brownouts ranging in number from six per day last summer to three per day now. Baltimore recently had to call mutual aide from Washington’s DCFEMS to help with a pair of greater alarm fires. This is a city in decline that needs a top-rate fire department to protect its aging and deteriorating housing stock, commercial districts, and bypassed industrial centers. They have a big fire problem and they have it now, right now, tonight, tomorrow, and in the morning. Yet here we find the chief of the department in the pages of the nation’s foremost trade journal and he’s bragging about going into houses to teach people how to put their babies to bed and calling it the future of the fire service.

The fire service’s leaders love to tell us that we need to train, prepare, train, and prepare some more. Leaving aside questions of propriety and over the political wisdom of bringing government agents into homes to “educate” the populace in this era of Tea Parties, I wonder how much time is left to train and prepare after “total-risk-reduction.” We also might be wise to ask when, how, and, most of all, why, the fire department is in charge of reducing the totality of risk. If words mean something then this is surely the greatest and most untenable mission creep anyone has ever seen.

The urban ruins of the decaying metropolis and the bare bones fire department are on display in Baltimore for all the fire service and world to see. Baltimore and its fire department are sinking; teaching people to put babies to sleep will not be the future that Chief Clack and the city fathers will be remembered for.

#1 Clicky Clack does not know how we work in Bmore.
#2 He needs to go back to minneapolis and take care of there bridges.
#3 The home visits are a joke when we put up a smoke detector next to 3 empty shells because as soon as we leave the people take them out and use the battery for some thing elses.
#4 Unlike what Clack said when he shut down one of the busies trucks people do not save themselves.

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What company do you think he should have closed instead?

How many people had Truck 2 rescued in the past, say 10 years prior to being disbanded?

Don't get me wrong - I'm not a fan of disbanding companies, but if the budget forces it, then someone has to pick which one gets closed.

Which one would you suggest? Rescue 1? One of the slower trucks? One of the slow, but isolated engines? Regardless of which company you close, there are trade-offs in capability, response time, or both.
Great point. Those are not great selling points to keep the Firehouse Expo in Baltimore. I don't hear about Charlotte or Dallas having those problems, for example.
So the comments at the end of the article posted on FFN are yours or fire geezers? And a fire chief from within will figure out how to find funding for the question I posed, that I noted you chose to not answer because you only want to be a firefighter.

I bet if one smoke detector installed by an in service company alerts just one person, one family, to the threat of a fire in their home, your new chief will point out that his very inexpensive use of your decreased companies effectively saved lives before they arrived. New school fire chiefs are risk managers and he has instituted a cheap risk management policy.
To add to this, do you REALLY think that Chief Clack wants to close companies?

Any chance that maybe he's trying to make the best out of a bad situation that is not his fault?
If the city doesn't have the money to operate the fire department same way that it has for 150 years, then it's going to change the way you operate, regardless of who likes it or dislikes it or who you blame.
"Urban Ruins?" Are you nuts? Have you ever been to Baltimore? The population has declined since the 1960s but it's hardly the urban wasteland you describe.

Other than that, I'm sure we all agree with you. Outreach and public safety are no business of the fire department, especially in a time of budget cuts and uninformed voters.

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