Councilwoman Danielle McCray has introduced legislation to ban firefighters from entering unoccupied vacant buildings, following the deaths of three on-duty firefighters responding to a fire at a vacant home last month.
the Firefighters Safety Act would create rules to fight fires in vacant structures, including one that would prohibit Baltimore City Fire Department personnel from entering a burning vacant or abandoned building unless there is a person in the building, that the fire has consumed less than a quarter of the building and “and the unsafe conditions permit safe entry.
Lt. Paul Butrim, Lt. Kelsey Sadler and Firefighter Kenny Lacayo have died after the vacant house they were in burned down, they partially collapsed. There was no one inside the house who needed to be rescued; Fire Chief Niles Ford said they may have gone inside after assessing the risk of the fire spreading to the neighboring occupied house.
“They determined they could control the fire and put it out,” he told the baltimore sun last month. “It’s up to those people at the scene to see the circumstances they find themselves in, and they did.”
The Firefighters Safety Act would also require the BCFD to create policies prohibiting personnel from entering a collapsed structure unless they have the proper training and equipment and an individual’s life is in danger. is in immediate danger.
Another mandatory policy would prevent staff from driving more than 15 miles per hour over the posted speed limit when responding to an emergency.
McCray said the bill was based on recommendations from the National Fire Protection Association and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
“While we cannot bring back those we have lost as a council, we are able to mitigate the severe consequences of future eras,” the Democrat said. “We can ensure that the safety measures and equipment are in place to ensure that the city of Baltimore does not suffer any more such heavy casualties on our watch.”
His bill would also require all city firefighters to be equipped with body cameras – portable audio and video recording devices – while responding to fires, as well as creating a program to mark unsafe buildings.
If council and Mayor Brandon Scott approve the bill, it will come into effect 180 days after it is proclaimed into law.
BCFD spokeswoman Blair Adams said the council did not consult Chief Ford on the legislation.
“We, however, look forward to a solid conversation with the board,” she said.
Battalion Chief Josh Fannon, president of Local 964 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said his union branch was also not consulted.
He said he was not aware of any fire departments using body cameras, which have been increasingly used by police in recent years. Fannon said the gear firefighters wear to fight a fire varies significantly from law enforcement uniforms.
“I don’t believe there’s a type of body camera that would make sense for fire suppression,” he said. “Body cameras are not the modern equipment we need to transform into a more modern fire suppression operation. Hopefully this will allow us to have a conversation about the other things we need.
Fannon said he’s glad the city council is taking an interest in firefighter safety and survival issues and looks forward to collaboratively finding solutions.
Rich Langford, president of the Baltimore Fire Department Local 734, said he looks forward to working with the council on portions of the bill’s language that may be “inconvenient to firefighters and Baltimore residents.” such as the 25% requirement.
“Think of a two story townhouse – 25% is the living room,” he said.
“I hope this bill will compel the department to sit down with some unions, heal and move on,” Langford added.
McCray and fellow sponsor Odette Ramos have also called for several hearings detailing firefighter practices, including a performance review of Chief Ford and a hearing on the effects of PTSD on first responders.