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City council passes Fire Dept. study bill, fund to bolster cash rewards for crime tipsters

Emily Sullivan/WYPR
Baltimore City Hall. On Monday, the council passed two bills to mandate reports from the Fire Department.

On the day three city firefighters lost their lives in the line of duty, the Baltimore City Council passed two bills to require the Fire Department to publish reports detailing internal control systems and staffing policies.

The bills were introduced by Councilman Kristerfer Burnett months ago, before Lt. Paul Butrim, firefighter Kelsey Sadler and firefighter Kenny Lacayo died after a vacant rowhome in Southwest Baltimore partially collapsed while they were inside battling flames. Firefighter John McMaster, who also was in the house, remained on life support Tuesday morning.

Burnett’s first bill mandates the department present a report to Mayor Brandon Scott and the council detailing standard staffing policies, from how complaints against employees are submitted to Equal Employment Opportunity investigations. The report must also study the potential establishment of an office within the department dedicated to compliance and internal investigations.

The second bill calls for a report evaluating departmental operations, fire suppression and Emergency Medical Services staffing. Department data shows that recruitment and retention have trended downward during the pandemic.

The report must include an analysis of the current fire suppression work schedule going back eight years, as well as a workload analysis of at least three fire departments similar to Baltimore’s. It also must analyze how the city fire department could benefit from changing staffing practices to resemble those of the other departments.

If Mayor Brandon Scott signs the bills, the fire department must publish reports within several months.

The council also passed Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer’s charter amendment to bolster cash rewards for crime tipsters. If signed by the mayor, it will go before Baltimore City voters.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.