The Baltimore County Central Alarmers spend most of their time taking care of first responders at some of the county’s biggest fires and police standoffs, but now the 57-year-old volunteer group has an emergency of its own.
The organization that Baltimore County Fire Department spokeswoman Elise Armacost said performs an “essential service” was hoping to buy a new truck from which they could continue to provide food, water and shelter to police and firefighters.
But the company they planned to buy their new vehicle from has gone out of business and the volunteer organization has lost its $50,000 down payment.
That, said volunteer Fred Schillforth, has left the group in a “very, very bad financial situation.”
Nearly a year ago, in August 2011, company president Frank Ward said the Central Alarmers put down a $52,000 deposit on a new “rehabilitation unit”—the mobile kitchen the group uses to take supplies to the scene of an emergency—to replace the Rehab 155, the 16-year-old vehicle that he said costs the company “four or five hundred” dollars a month in repairs.
By late February 2012 the company with the contact to build the vehicle, Krammes Kustom Body in St. Clair, PA, had gone out of business, Ward said. The vehicle was never delivered, and the Alarmers have no way to recover the down payment on the $150,000 vehicle.
“What we’ve found out, this guy built pretty much every rehab vehicle in the tri-state area … he was reliable and gave us a good price,” Ward said. “He built our first rehab vehicle back in 1996.”
A representative of Krammes Kustom Body was not immediately available for comment.
Now the company, still in need of a new vehicle and over $50,000 poorer, has entered into a new contract—Atlantic Emergency Solutions agreed to build their rehab unit for $160,000 plus the cost of the vehicle chassis.
“We need the money within a year, the truck is scheduled to be delivered in 300 days,” Ward said. “Plaza Ford is working with us to give us a good price on the chassis, but it’ll still be around $30,000.”
Bringing the total cost of the new unit to around $190,000.
Ward is hopeful though. When they placed the first build order they were given a $100,000 loan from the Baltimore County Volunteer Firefighters Association to help pay for it—a loan they’ve since been asked to pay back, since the truck was never delivered.
“We’re hoping the Volunteer Firefighters Association will come up with about 75 percent of the $190,000,” Ward said. “If we don’t get the loan, we have a binding contract … that’s a lot more than we have in our account.”
Volunteer Firefighters Association president Chuck Bollinger told Patch that he thought the group would be able to help out.
“There’s money in the loan fund and the county has assured us it will be available as long as there’s a need,” Bollinger said. “Frank [Ward] & the Central Alarmers can certainly justify that need … I would think we will be able to fund that loan.”
“We couldn’t do what we do without them, each company would have to create its own support role—they’re a great, great group,” he said.
In the meantime, Ward said that Central Alarmers, which is based at the old Station 8 on Belair Road in Fullerton, has been holding fundraisers—two in the last few months—but that they’ve mostly been using the funds to repair their current rehab truck.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to keep the company going,” Ward said.
Armacost said she wasn’t immediately aware of the troubles the Central Alarmers were facing but that the group and its counterpart on the county’s west side, the Box 234 Association, were invaluable to emergency services operations.
“We have two rehab companies for our emergency services and they perform an essential service. When there’s an extended call, any hour day or night, they’re on hand to provide water, food, sunscreen—a warm place in the cold, or air conditioning in the summer,” Armacost said. “Sometimes our first responders can be out there for house and it’s essential to be able to eat and drink so you can keep going.”