A proposal to provide $1 billion in federal funding would help fire stations in dire need of upgrades.
Fire stations in Maryland and across the country are dealing with a list of safety issues that include mold, lack of proper exhaust systems and no air conditioning.
For example, Baltimore County Fire Station 4 in Catonsville was built in 1928 and it could use an upgrade. Station 4 responds to 8,000 calls each year. The equipment is in top shape, the staff well trained, but firefighters complain the facility is not up to par.
“It’s dated, it’s old and it is expensive,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said.
Issues include a lack of air conditioning and sprinkler systems, no female quarters and bunks that are located in a hay loft that was left over from a time when horses pulled fire equipment.
“The fire services has had to make choices to replace equipment or to replace fire stations. Do we do health and safety improvements? Or, do we replace the fire station?” Baltimore County Fire Chief Joanne Rund said.
U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-District 7, are pushing legislation to help.
“This legislation would authorize $1 billion every year to make sure that firehouses and other emergency facilities in Maryland and around the country have the support they need to do their job. So, when those men and women go out on a mission, they have a fire station that is worthy of their sacrifice,” Van Hollen said.
According to a recent report by the National Fire Protection Association, 59% of firehouses surveyed are without exhaust emission control systems, 43% are over 40 years old, 35% have no backup power and few have separate facilities for female firefighters. All expressed concern about mold remediation.
“The real challenge is modernizing the bones the infrastructure of the fire department, and that’s what this bill does, provides a realistic sum of money to make a real difference in this country,” Cardin said.
“This particular measure does just that, it takes care of firefighters,” Mfume said.
The legislation covers also volunteer firehouses. Seventy-one volunteer stations surveyed in Maryland indicated they have the same upgrade needs.