UPDATE: Baltimore changes policy after first arriving engine ordered to leave working fire

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Previously – Must listen: First arriving engine at Baltimore fire told to go home

Above, is the new language added to Baltimore City Fire Department Operations Memo No. 07-17– AVL Dispatch for Box Alarms — after the controversial radio communications surfaced that STATter911 posted on Saturday (entire memo is below). The recording was from a box alarm on Friday night and can be heard here.

Engine 31 was not initially dispatched on the call but was in the area, saw the smoke and pulled up as the first engine on the scene. Engine 31 announced it had the hydrant in front of the building. Engine 31 was told first by communications and then the responding battalion chief to go in service because the engine had not been dispatched. Apparently the previous policy was interpreted as not having the flexibility to allow common sense to prevail when the only engine on the scene is one not in the dispatch sequence chosen through AVL.

Yesterday (Monday), the story was picked up by MSM in Baltimore. Below are some excerpts, including an interview with Engine 31 Captain John Parker.

Watch interview with Captain John Parker, Engine 31.

Keith Daniels, WBFF-TV:

Captain John Parker is heated over a department policy that triggered that decision.

Parker is speaking out after his Engine 31 crew arrived at the scene of the house fire but was then told they could not fight the fire.

“It’s increasingly frustrating, that’s exactly what we’re here to do and we also have to obey orders and if an order is given, you have to follow it,” said Parker.

According to Parker, Engine 31 happened to be near the house and responded. But because of the department’s recent use of GPS technology, which dispatches units only by their geographical area of coverage, Engine 31 was told they could not respond. It was a decision that annoyed neighbors and frustrated the captain.

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Luke Broadwater, The Baltimore Sun:

The city began looking into the matter after audio of firefighters being ordered to leave the scene circulated on the internet.

On Monday, the department circulated an updated policy that allows battalion chiefs to authorize an additional unit to respond to fires if it happens to be near a blaze to which another unit is assigned by GPS.

Blair Skinner, a spokeswoman for the fire department, said fire officials were aware of the incident.

“We are looking into this,” she said, adding that the reason the engine was turned away “is currently under investigation.”

She did not respond to questions about whether there were injuries during the incident, what damage was done and how long it took for another engine to arrive.

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