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Firefighter Apprentice Rachael M. WIlson

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Firefighter Apprentice Rachael M. WIlson

Posted: 1172720670000
Classification: Obituary
Surnames: Wilson
Baltimore Mayor Honors Fallen Recruit

Updated: 02-27-2007 09:48:51 AM

Mayor Sheila Dixon announced a posthumous promotion yesterday for city Fire Apprentice Racheal M. Wilson, who was killed Feb. 9, 2007 in a flawed live-fire training exercise - a move she said will enable her two children to receive "full pension benefits."

"Racheal Wilson was willing to put her life on the line for the citizens of Baltimore and she lost her life training to serve this city," Dixon said in a statement. "This promotion recognizes her sacrifice.

"As a city, we have an obligation to care for the families of our fallen heroes," Dixon added.

Wilson, 29, whose children are ages 8 and 11, had begun her fire academy training in November, 2006. She died after leading other cadets into an abandoned rowhouse where instructors had set seven fires in what was supposed to be a routine exercise that was found after her death to have been rife with safety violations

As a result, two fire officers were suspended without pay and the head of the training academy was fired.

Dixon said Fire Chief William Goodwin and union officials support the promotion of Wilson to "full firefighter-paramedic status."

The mayor's spokesman, Anthony W. McCarthy, said last night that Wilson had been months away from completing her training, and that her pension would have been relatively small without the promotion.

"What will happen is the Fire Department will consult with the fire and police pension board, and will get a new pension status for Ms. Wilson. What the exact increase will be I am not sure until we hear back from the pension board," McCarthy said, adding that the matter eventually will be presented to the city Board of Estimates and "an adjustment will be made in the Fire Department budget to absorb that increase."

Baltimore Recruit Died During Live Fire Training

Updated: 02-11-2007 01:45:45 AM

Feb. 10, 2007--A 29-year-old recruit with the city Fire Department died during a training exercise yesterday as she tried to extinguish a blaze set by instructors in a vacant rowhouse in Southwest Baltimore, according to fire officials.

Racheal Wilson, mother of an 11-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, was inside a three-story dwelling when she collapsed about noon and was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center. She died shortly after she arrived, fire officials said. Details of her injuries were not released yesterday. She had started training in November.

"We're in shock," said acting Fire Chief Theodore Saunders. "Today is a reminder of how dangerous this profession is." Saunders did not answer questions at the brief news conference outside the hospital.

The president of the Firefighters Union Local 734, Rick Schluderberg, said the incident raises questions about the practice of using vacant rowhouses as training grounds for recruits. The house used is in the 100 block of S. Calverton Road, near West Lombard Street.

"Things like this are not supposed to happen in training," Schluderberg said last night. "We like to make it as real as possible, but this got out of hand." He pointed out that the department has a building on the grounds of its training academy on Pulaski Highway that can be used to introduce cadets to the hazards of dealing with a fire.

Chief Kevin Cartwright, a spokesman for the Fire Department, gave few details of the investigation or how Wilson might have been put in jeopardy. He would not say where in the building she was but said the rowhouse appeared to be structurally sound, and he didn't believe any part of it had collapsed.

He defended the practice of setting vacant rowhouses on fire for training purposes. "It simulates the kinds of structures and environments that the recruits will be operating in when they go out to the field," he said.

Wilson was a firefighter-paramedic apprentice. Recruits often go through joint training and decide later whether to become paramedics or firefighters.

Two others were injured in the fire: a female member of the recruit class and a male firefighter. Both were treated yesterday from Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and released.

Fire Chief Williams J. Goodwin was in Israel for a series of homeland security meetings yesterday. He left the meetings early and is expected to be in Baltimore today.

Members of the recruit class were being interviewed at fire headquarters last night. "We need to get everyone's account," Cartwright said. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is participating in the investigation.

Wison's death was announced at a news conference in front of Shock Trauma. "As I stand here in the cold, my heart right now is very heavy for the loss," Mayor Sheila Dixon told reporters. "To the firefighters who make a major sacrifice every day, I want to just extend our wholehearted condolences."

Dr. Thomas Scalea, the head of surgery at Shock Trauma who treated Wilson, also offered his condolences. "I assure you that this individual received everything, everything that we have to offer," he said.

A wreath was placed in the doorway of the brick rowhouse yesterday, which is at the end of a block with other vacant dwellings.

Wilson's academy class was expected to graduate in March and has one of the highest number of female recruits in recent memory, Cartwright said.

Wilson lived near Belvedere Square in North Baltimore with her son, Cameron, her daughter, Princess, and her boyfriend, Cartwright said. She was originally from Louisiana, and her parents live in Denver.

The last firefighter to die in the line of duty was Allan M. Roberts, 40. He was burned while trying to put out a fire in a Greektown rowhouse in mid-October. Two other firefighters were injured during that blaze.

Baltimore Cadet Collapses During Training

Updated: 02-09-2007 04:19:48 PM

A female firefighter collapsed during a routine training exercise in west Baltimore Friday and later died, city fire officials said.

The firefighter was rushed to Shock Trauma around noon, where she was pronounced dead, Baltimore Fire Department Chief Public Information Officer Kevin Cartwright said.

Two other trainees suffered minor burns, Cartwright said. They were taken to local hospitals for treatment.

Cartwright said there were no reports of structural damage or anything out of the ordinary when the firefighter collapsed.

The firefighters were participating in a six-month training program along Calverton Road and Frederick Avenue. The program is supposed to run until the end of March, Cartwright said.

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