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Responding to the Community

BALTIMORE -- "It's not the number that counts," said Senior Master Sgt. Walter Spencer Jr., Fire Chief of the 175th CES/CEF Fire Department, referring to the amount of incidents the military fire department responds to during the year. "The benefits to the community are the firefighters that work here, the backgrounds they come from." 

The 175th Fire Department is comprised of 36 firefighters. There are currently 20 full-time members who are able to provide 24 hour assistance. 

"Each of the firefighters brings something valuable to the table, I'll give you an example," said Spencer. "Staff Sgt. Ed Schwartz is a Baltimore County Lieutenant, an Owings Mills Volunteer and a Staff Sgt. in the ANG fire department." 

Spencer considers one of his female firefighters to be another valuable and highly skilled member of his diverse team. 

"Tech Sgt. Michelle Chandler is a career firefighter and paramedic for the Prince George County Fire Department, and a Tech Sgt. in the Air National Guard who is one of my station captains," said Spencer. 

The primary mission of the fire department is to provide fire protection for the aircraft and facilities, and to respond to hazardous and confined spaces incidents. The secondary mission is to assist the community. Under the Master Cooperative Agreement, the 175th Fire Department is responsible for the civilian side of the runway at Martin State Airport in Baltimore. They also respond to vehicle accidents immediately outside of the base and surrounding community. 

"We've had multi-car accidents with multiple injuries," said Spencer. "The unit also responded to two large semi-tractor trailer units that caught on fire on Interstate 95, just north of exit 43." 

They're the only fire department in the area besides Andrews Air Force Base in Md. that is chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives trained, according to Spencer. The 175th Fire Department also has a very strong mutual agreement with Baltimore County Fire and Rescue Department. Both fire departments have conducted joint training in the past. 

"The wing commander has assured me that they're very community oriented," said Spencer. "If they call, we go." 

In the future, firefighters will be able to respond to incidents from a new facility. Congress approved $7.9 million in funding for a new fire station. The new building will meet all the Air Force occupational and health standards and will be approximately twice the square footage, according to Spencer.