The Baltimore Fire Department is making adjustments to how it fights fires, including requiring firefighters to stay outside of blazing buildings until certain conditions are in place.
The new procedures were sent out in two memos to staff on Tuesday and Wednesday from Dante P. Stewart, Assistant Chief of Operations.
The memos, which come on the eve of the funeral for firefighter Capt. Dillon Rinaldo, specify that firefighters must make a significant knockdown of visible fire and have a complete 360-degree evaluation of the building, including a report from the roof, when possible.
WJZ and The Baltimore Banner obtained the memos Wednesday and Thursday.
The new guidance also calls for firefighters to have a comprehensive risk/reward analysis is completed by the Incident Commander and make sure the structure is sound for members to operate safely inside, as determined by the Incident Commander.
Stewart also said the Incident Commander will be the first arriving officer until command is transferred to the senior officer, or the Battalion Chief.
And all fires at confirmed vacant buildings can only be extinguished from the outside unless there is an actual sighting of a person trapped inside.
“The only time that the above directive will be deviated from, is if there is a credible report of a trapped individual with survivable spaces, and conditions dictate that the rescue can be affected safely without causing injury, or worse to departmental personnel,” Stewart wrote.
Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace told WJZ some parts of the memo are new, while others a just a reminder.
“When we respond to calls, we want them to evaluate the environments that they respond to and we want them to use critical thinking,” Wallace said.
For the second week in a row, firefighters gathered outside the Duda-Ruck Funeral Home in Dundalk to pay respects to one of their fallen brothers.
“Our members, they’re hurt,” Wallace said.
Rinaldo, who was posthumously promoted to captain, will be laid to rest this week. He was a six-year veteran of the department.
Rinaldo and EMT/Firefighter Rodney W. Pitts lll, whose funeral was last week, were both killed battling a fire last month on Linden Heights Avenue.
“We’re not made of steel,” Wallace said. “We’re not. We are human beings. These things affect us in ways that the average person just doesn’t know.”
Several investigations into the cause of the fire and what led up to it are still ongoing, but while they continue, city leaders want people to remember how dangerous a firefighter’s job is.
“This is why it is so important to do things that we ask consistently for folks to do,” Mayor Brandon Scott said. “Have a smoke detector, for folks to have their houses looked at for safety and make sure that you’re properly storing things. Everything that you can do to prevent something from happening.”
Viewings for Rinaldo will continue Thursday at the Duda-Ruck Funeral Home from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.
His funeral is set for Friday at 10 a.m. at Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on North Charles Street in Baltimore.