Gary (IN) Firefighters Deal with Fire Equipment Shortages

The resource-strapped firefighting department in Gary (IN) face challenges and public safety concerns.

Gary sent two engines and a ladder truck to the June 16 fire in the 1900 block of Delaware Street, Battalion Chief Donnie Williamson said.

Two engines, a ladder truck, a rescue squad and a battalion chief should respond to an initial alarm, according to the department’s website. When a fire is upgraded to a box alarm, procedure calls for another engine, truck company and chief.

Gary was forced to call for other region departments to help. The Lake Ridge Fire Department sent one engine. The Merrillville Fire Department sent a ladder truck, but it didn’t arrive until the fire had been knocked down, Williamson said.

The fire displaced a mother and her two young children, but no injuries were reported.

Williamson said he could not comment on anything but the June 16 fire.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Fire Chief Teresa Everett said they’re aware of the department’s shortages.

“That was one of the priorities of our administration coming into office, because we understood how outdated and inadequate the equipment was,” Freeman-Wilson said.

The mayor said after she took office, the department accepted an engine from the village of Glenwood. The engine, which Gary received in 2012, was the oldest one the village had in surplus, Glenwood Mayor Kerry Durkin said.

That engine is currently down for repairs, Everett said.

According to the Gary fire chief, five of the city’s 11 engines were in service and six were off line for repairs as of Thursday. Gary also has one engine it’s renting from a private company, bringing the total to six. The Insurance Services Office recommends Gary have seven engines in service, Everett said.

The recommended standard of the National Fire Protection Association for a city with a population of Gary — about 79,000 residents — is six engines. Hammond, with about 80,000 residents, is running six engines and has three spares, Hammond Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Margraf said.
East Chicago Fire Department has provided mutual aid to Gary twice so far this year, said David Diehl, director of the city’s Emergency Management Agency. Gary has sent help to East Chicago at least two times this year, he said.

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