Letter to the Editor: Fired up at brownout policy

I’m seeing red these days as I learn more about the Fire Department’s brown outs.  Did you know that three firehouses in northeast Philadelphia are among those on the citywide list:  Engine 18 Pennypack Circle, Engine 71 Cottman and Loretto, and Engine 64 Rising Sun and Magee?

With past cuts in fire personnel and equipment and now rotating closures of neighborhood firehouses, how can the Mayor and Fire Department’s administrative personnel justify that they have our public safety in their best interest?  Is it not the core responsibility of our city government to provide adequate fire protection to its citizens?  

While the geographical area of the city remains the same, there will now be fewer responders and an increased waiting period to reach those with a fire/medic emergency.

Although I do not favor brownouts at ANY of the firehouses, I personally feel the need to address the brown out situation at my own neighborhood firehouse, Engine 18 at 8205 Roosevelt Boulevard (at Holme Avenue).  After realizing the number of medical and senior facilities located within the “first call” range of this firehouse, I could not help wonder if any study had been undertaken by the Fire Commissioner’s office before selecting Engine 18 for its brown out status.  An initial review found the following institutions within Engine 18’s “first call” boundaries:

  • Nazareth Hospital, 2601 Holme Ave., 19152 (located directly next door to the firehouse)
  • Deer Meadows Retirement Community/The Baptist Home of Phila., 8301 Roosevelt Blvd. 19152 (independent and assisted living, dementia unit, hospice)
  • Evangelical Manor/Wesleyan Place, 8401 Roosevelt Blvd. 19152 (assisted living, nursing care)
  • The above two are located literally just north of the firehouse with an apartment building in between.
  • Immaculate Mary Nursing Home. 2990 Holme Avenue, 19136
  • Angela Jane Pavilion Acute Rehabilitation Hospital, 8410 Roosevelt Blvd. 19152
  • Harmony Place at Parke Ridge (assisted living) 8420 Roosevelt Blvd. 19152
  • Glendale Uptown Nursing Home 7800 Bustleton Ave. 19152

In addition, below is a partial listing of the apartment houses within the firehouse’s jurisdiction (most occupied by senior citizens):

  • Joshua House Apartments, 2901 Welsh Rd.
  • Manor Glen, 8403 Roosevelt Blvd.
  • Welsh Manor, 2700 Northview Rd.
  • Winchester Walk, 2600 Welsh Rd.
  • Valmont Towers, 7600 Roosevelt Blvd.
  • Axe Factory Apartments, 2800 Axe Factory Rd.
  • Manchester Apartments, 2800 Welsh Rd.
  • Atrium Apartments, 2555 Welsh Rd.
  • Blue Grass Estates, 9213 Blue Grass Rd.
  • Tabas House C O Federation Housing, 2101 Strahle St.
  • Welshwoods Apartments, 2661 Willits Rd.
  • Park Circle 2000 LP, 8225 Roosevelt Blvd.

Not only are Holme Circle (and vicinity) homeowners at risk, but the patients and senior citizens at the above institutions are especially vulnerable to a potential disaster if a fire should occur during one of Engine 18’s brown outs. These larger facilities would require the likely involvement of, at least, 4 Engines and 2 Ladders Companies and 2 Chief cars & Medic units.

Also, at risk are our schools including Austin Meehan Middle, Farrell Elementary, St. Jerome’s Catholic, Rhawnhurst Elementary and Pollock Elementary in addition to the Northeast Community Center on Holme Avenue.

Lastly, this firehouse has the only large capacity Foam Pumper (500 gallons) in the area.  In the event of a disaster at the Northeast Airport, access to this fire-fighting apparatus would be critical and must remain available 24/7.

The Pennypack Circle firehouse (Engine 18) will be closed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every five days until further notice which is approximately 72 times per year!  The September dates are:  2, 7, 12, 17, 22, and 27. During these closings, NO firefighting capability will be in service from this “house”.  Is the monetary savings worth the risk of human lives to our citizens and our responders?   Is it worth the robbing of our quality of life as we hope that our call to 911 during a fire does not occur when our firehouse is “Closed for the Day”?

Will those extra minutes waiting for another Engine company to respond mean the difference of life, death or increased injuries?   Will the decrease of fire protection result in an increase in our rates for homeowner’s insurance?  Is the Fire Department playing Russian roulette with our family and neighbors’ lives?

With City Council ready to resume their meetings in mid-September after the conclusion of summer vacation, please voice your objection to the new brownout policy by taking the initiative to contact Mayor Nutter and your council members by phone or email:

Mayor Nutter,  215-686-2181

10th District

Brian O’Neill,  215-686-3422

At Large

Blondell Reynolds Brown, 215-686-3438      

William Greenlee, 215-686-3446

Wilson Goode Jr., 215-686-3414      

Jack Kelly, 215-686-3452

James Kenny, 215-686-3450

Bill Green, 215-686-3420

Frank Rizzo, 215-686-3440

In addition, please join us at the next Holme Circle Civic Association meeting on Wednesday, September 22 at 7 p.m. at St. Jerome’s School Hall, Holme Avenue and Stamford Street, in which a representative of Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers’ office will address questions and concerns regarding the department’s newly initiated brownout policy.  All are welcomed.

Submitted by Elsie A. Stevens, Holme Circle

If you would like to send a letter to the editor, please be advised that all submissions are edited for errors, but not content, However, profanity, racial/ethnic slurs and any other content deemed inappropriate by the editor, will not be published. In your e-mail, please put “letter to the editor” in the subject line.

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