Before TV cameras and a large audience, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Gov. Martin O’Malley yesterday presented plaques and offered the highest praise to two city workers who recently helped save an infant being stabbed at a social services office in East Baltimore.
But Dana Hayes and William Purnell Short, who subdued the suspect, were not the only heroes that day. Not honored or mentioned by the mayor and governor were members of a fire company set to be closed by the Rawlings-Blake administration.
Truck Company 15 was the first to arrive at the social services office on April 24, two minutes after they were dispatched by 911 operators, according to records reviewed by The Brew.
The crew reached the building at 10:03 a.m. and administered emergency care – which controlled the bleeding from seven stab wounds suffered by the infant – before the arrival of a medic unit and ambulance at 10:08 a.m., five minutes later.
“In my opinion, Truck 15 kept the baby alive by picking up the call quickly and beginning immediate critical care to treating the wounds,” said a fire department member who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the incident.
Truck 15 is one of three fire companies – the others are Truck 10 in Harlem Park and Squad 11 at Hopkins Bayview – slated to be disbanded on July 1 as a cost-saving measure by the Rawlings-Blake administration.
Responding to queries from The Brew, fire department spokesman Kevin Cartwright said today in an email, “The proposed disbandment of Truck Company 15 would not have impacted the fire department’s response to the Biddle Street [stabbing] incident.”
Because another fire company would replace Truck 15 at the East Baltimore station house, Cartwright said, “The neighborhoods will not lose any fire protection; what they will lose is simply a ladder truck versus a fire engine.”
But what about medical emergencies?
Firefighters in Baltimore double as emergency medical responders. Cartwright did not respond to a question on how the proposed closing of Truck 15 might impact on medical emergencies and treatment times.
According to Rick Hoffman, president of Baltimore Firefighters Local 734, the disbanding of Truck 15 would cut the safety net in the neighborhood where the April 24 stabbing took place.
“We need to have a fully funded department to handle medical emergencies, like this stabbing,” he said in an interview.
Busiest Truck Company in City
Stationed at 1223 North Montford Ave., Truck 15 is the busiest truck company in Baltimore.
In fiscal 2010-11, it responded to 3,556 calls. So far this year, the company has already passed the mark of 3,300 calls, and is on its way to a record 4,000 calls when the year ends on June 30.
About two-thirds of the calls are for medical emergencies. “Who is going to take those calls?” asked the fire department member. “Those calls aren’t going to magically disappear at the start of the new fiscal year.”
In regards to the stabbing of Pretty Diamond (her mother, Kenisha Thomas, is being held in police custody for the stabbing), city records show that a trauma call went out on the main dispatch line at 9:58 a.m.
The closest responder, Engine Company 51, was on a call in southeast Baltimore. Medic Unit 4, stationed in Bolton Hill, was the closest 911 responder, while Medic Unit 24, stationed at Old Town, was at Mercy Hospital.
Truck 15 Takes the Call
Meanwhile, Truck 15 was completing a call on Lakewood Ave. about four blocks from the social services building.
The unit informed the dispatcher at 10:01 a.m. that it would take the run, replacing Engine Company 5 in Fells Point, and arrived at the social services building at 3031 East Biddle St. at 10:03 a.m.
The Truck 15 crew was directed by police into the building where they found a member of the social services staff cradling the baby, according to eyewitnesses who requested anonymity.
The baby had three stab wounds in the neck, one in the left eye and three wounds in chest, all from a knife that police say was smuggled into the building by the infant’s mother.
The baby’s clothes were soaked in blood. The Truck 15 crew cut off her clothes and began controlling the bleeding with direct pressure and sterile dressings. The most potentially serious wounds were in the chest and neck.
“Damage has been done to the baby’s voice box and airway, and she was trying to scream, but it came out very hoarsely,” said a person at the scene.
By the time Medic Unit 24 arrived at 10:08, the bleeding was under control, the wounds had been dressed and there were good lung sounds, according to eyewitnesses.
The baby was placed on a stretcher and rolled out to the ambulance, where she was given IV therapy and transported to Johns Hopkins Hospital. Her arrival at Hopkins is listed as 10:21 a.m.
Earlier this week, the infant was released from Hopkins.
“On the Front Lines”
At yesterday’s ceremony, Gov. O’Malley told the audience of mostly government workers that they are frequently “on the front lines.”
He was quoted in The Baltimore Sun as saying, “There is no such thing here in Baltimore as a spare American. A lot of times in the budget debates, people who don’t know what you do will say just . . . cut, cut, cut.”
“That’s not what we’re about,” the governor added. “Lives that can’t even speak or walk for themselves depend on you.”
Ryan O’Doherty, spokesman for Mayor Rawlings-Blake, did not respond to questions today by The Brew about the stabbing incident and ceremony.
PRIOR STORIES ON FIRE COMPANY CLOSINGS in The Brew:
Indians, but no chief at fire closing hearings
Councilman calls for hearings on proposed fire closures
What the neighbors and numbers say about losing Ladder Truck 15
Councilman proposes selling ads on the sides of firetrucks