Baltimore Firefighter Reduced Fires Set in Schools

Lt. Derrick Ready was assigned with the task to reduce the number of fires set in Baltimore (MD) schools. Five years later, he is being recognized for the 86 percent reduction in school fires, reports The Baltimore Sun.

The fires were dangerous, of course, but they were mostly a big nuisance, and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

More than 100 times a year, students in middle school or high school, on a dare or as part of gang initiation, set a match to a paper-filled trash bin or some other flammable object and started a fire in a public school.

“We had some schools that had gotten so bad that we parked fire trucks and engines outside of them, and the kids still set fires,” Ready says. “It was embarrassing.”

When he attended classes at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Ready heard firefighters from other communities refer to Baltimore as “the school fire capital of the world.”

Ready didn’t like that.

“I took it personal,” he says. “You have to take it personal. Every fire started in every school I take personal.”

Here are some numbers from the Baltimore City Fire Department:
There were 138 public school fires in Baltimore’s 2003-2004 academic year. By 2008, there were nearly 500 more. That translates to an estimated 56,160 hours of instructional time lost between 2004 and 2008.

Ready was determined to see the fires end. So was the city fire marshall at the time, Raymond O’Brocki. In 2008, he challenged Ready to reduce the number of school fires by 50 percent within five years.

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