The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Firefighters Die in Baltimore

Jan 31, 2022

Three experienced Baltimore City firefighters were killed and a fourth seriously injured fighting a fire that broke out in a vacant three-story rowhouse at around 6 AM on January 24. The firefighters went into the burning building because they were told there might be people inside. Once they were inside, the burning house partially collapsed on them.

According to official figures, there are around 16,000 vacant houses in Baltimore, several thousand owned by the city. Firefighters say there are homeless people often living in them. And frequently they make small fires in them during the winter, trying to stay warm.

Instead of finding housing for these people and jobs for them—if they are able to work—Baltimore, like other cities, requires landlords to board up their vacant homes to keep homeless people out. But the homeless frequently get in anyway, one way or another.

The recent deadly Baltimore fire broke out in a house that had been vacant for at least 11 years in a neighborhood with many vacant buildings. There was a fire in this same house in 2015 that left three firefighters injured. The house was condemned by the city after that fire and put up for sale due to unpaid taxes.

The building was valued at only $6,000 and taxes for the current year were only $150. With taxes this low, many landlords simply hang onto such buildings for years waiting for an opportunity to sell them later when they hope to get a better price.

The whole situation reveals how many problems that working people face contribute to deadly fires like this recent one in Baltimore: High unemployment in some parts of the working class; low wages; lack of action by public officials to provide affordable housing to all who need it.

The banks, big corporations, the wealthy, and their politicians aren’t going to solve these problems. Only an upsurge in the working class can force them to act differently.