The Baltimore City Fire Department will now help first responders identify unsafe vacant homes, buildings, or structures with a red, reflective diamond.
The Unsafe Vacant Marking initiative comes months after a vacant house fire on the 200 block of S. Stricker St. claimed the lives of three firefighters and left one critically injured. “The manner in which our fallen firefighters lost their lives has severely affected the members of this department – and quite frankly – the entire community,” said Fire Chief Niles R. Ford. “The coordinated efforts to protect first responders, building engineers and others is vital as we consistently work to improve our safety standards and identify new opportunities to protect the City of Baltimore. Chief Ford added, ‘we will have boots on the ground-with the goal of aggressively tagging and documenting unsafe vacant properties in Baltimore City.’
Following the deaths of Lt. Paul Butrim, Lt. Kelsey Sadler, and FF/Paramedic Kenneth Lacayo, Mayor Scott issued a 30-day Vacant Review, requiring all City agencies to review their operations, procedures, and processes connected to how City government manages private and publicly owned-vacant properties.
According to a Baltimore City press release, of the approximately 218,000 total properties in the City of Baltimore, 14,600 are vacant and abandoned, and over 92% of those are privately owned. Every Wednesday beginning October 26, firefighters will hit the pavement for two hours to document unsafe vacant homes. So far, over 500 unsafe properties have been identified.
With over 800 signs in stock, the reflective signs will soon be visible throughout Baltimore City. Chief Ford noted when identifying an unsafe vacant property, firefighters will consider the stability of a structure & the roof, previous fire damage, and visible signs of a collapse.