Baltimore County Now
Battalion Chief Jennifer Utz
During my career with the Baltimore County Fire Department, one particular fire stands out in my mind.
A family reported a house fire, and when we arrived we found a man with black soot on his face. He needed medical evaluation for smoke inhalation. When we asked him what had happened – how he was exposed to so much smoke – he said he had been trying to retrieve a high school ring.
Many of us can relate to his emotional connection with a special possession. But this person was lucky: His search for a replaceable object could have cost him his life.
According to the National Fire Protection Agency, 3,005 civilian fire deaths were reported in the U.S. during 2011. House fires accounted for more than 2,500 of those fatal fires, as well as 13,000 civilian injuries.
Although the rate of fire deaths has dropped over the past few decades, these numbers remain alarming because most fire deaths are so preventable. I’ve found that many, if not most, fire deaths or injuries occur when people make certain critical mistakes:
• They delay getting out of the house. They check around the home to see if they can find out why they smell smoke. They run from room to room, grabbing items they want to save. They decide to call somebody- a spouse at work, for example- to ask what they should do.
If you see or smell smoke, or if a smoke detector activates, leave the home immediately. Once everyone is outside, call 911 either by cell phone or a nearby neighbor’s house. Let firefighters, who are trained and equipped, search for the source of a fire.
• They run back inside. They get out safely, but go back into the house to try to save a child, pet, or special possession. Let firefighters, who are trained and equipped, perform rescues.
• They panic, especially if an emergency occurs while they are sleeping. If you are sleeping and you hear the smoke detector or smell smoke, stay calm. Feel the bedroom door for heat, using the back of your hand. If the surface is hot, do not open it.
If possible, go to a window and make your escape that way. Or, wait at the window and wave your hands so the firefighters can see you. Stuff towels, sheets, or clothing at the bottom of the door to slow the spread of deadly smoke.
• They underestimate the deadliness of smoke. Most victims die from smoke inhalation and toxic gases, not burns. If you can’t get out without traveling through smoke, stay low, cover your mouth and nose, and crawl to an exit.
• They don’t install or properly maintain smoke detectors. At least one smoke detector should be installed outside of all sleeping areas. Smoke detectors should be tested monthly, and the batteries changed twice a year.
Too many times, people remove a battery from a smoke detector to stop it from alarming when the battery is low or when cooking, or because they need a battery for something else.
Our web site, www.baltimorecountymd.gov/firesafety, is a good place to start when making a home fire escape plan.
When I talk to citizens about home fire escape planning, I stress that it isn’t enough just to have a plan. The entire family needs to review and practice the plan a couple of times a year. That's the best way to avoid the kinds of mistakes that make an already traumatic event something much worse.
by Kevin Kamenetz
I am extremely proud of the men and women who choose to serve the people of Baltimore County in our police and fire departments. Without a doubt, they are among the finest in the nation. I am pleased to announce that Baltimore County is releasing a new recruitment video today that is designed to encourage minorities and females to pursue a career in public safety.
As we move forward in the 21st century, we need to do all that we can to ensure that we continue to protect our communities. As the demographics of the nation and County continue to change, it is critical that the individuals serving in all areas of government, but particularly in public safety, reflect the communities they serve. It is not only morally right, it is good public policy. Over the past decade, we have made significant progress, but we can do more. Most importantly, public safety depends on the public’s confidence. A diverse police and fire department builds that trust and makes everyone safer.
This new recruiting tool will be shared with school guidance counselors, ministers, broadcast widely on BCTV, and utilized at both traditional and no-traditional job fairs. We can, and will attract, an increasingly diverse group of men and women to serve in Baltimore County, while maintaining the high standards that make us so proud.
If you know someone who would be an excellent candidate to serve in Baltimore County’s police and fire departments, please have them contact the Department of Human Resources directly or visit http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov. I hope you will enjoy and share Baltimore County’s latest recruiting tool: http://www.youtube.com/baltimorecounty.
By Susan Hunt
Baltimore County Office of Public Safety Media & Communications
Yes, firefighters do occasionally rescue cats stuck in trees, horses stuck in mud, dogs trapped in burning buildings … and, recently, a great blue heron tangled in a kite string.
Sometimes, even the most experienced rescue workers face situations not covered at the Fire-Rescue Academy. That’s what happened on Sunday, April 29, when Halethorpe’s Truck 5, under the command of Lt. Stephen Sindler, was dispatched to assist the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department with a rescue involving a great blue heron dangling by its wing from a kite string suspended between two 60-foot trees. The string had wrapped itself several times around the bird’s wing.
Now, the long-legged blue heron – almost as much a state bird as the Baltimore oriole – weighs about seven pounds and stands 4.5 feet tall with a wingspan of nearly 6.5 feet. One of the tricky things about trying to save them is that they are carnivores who kill their prey by impaling them with their blade-like beaks. This was no standard fluffy kitten rescue.
Carefully, Truck 5’s crew extended the aerial ladder between the trees. Probationary Firefighter David Hepner climbed the ladder, and – assisted by the DNR officer on the ground – pulled the string and the bird towards him. Following the DNR officer’s instructions, PFF Hepner grabbed hold of the bird, cut the string, disentangled the bird and carried the patient to the ground. Crews turned the heron over to Baltimore County Animal Control officers.
The story has a happy ending. Animal Control personnel transferred the bird to the Phoenix Wildlife Center, which treated its injuries and a few days later released it back into the wild.