Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fire Damages Done To Fort Howard VAMC

Fort Howard Development, LLC - Tim Munshell and Carl Williams - hold a long term lease on Maryland's Ft. Howard Veterans Affairs Medical Center property in Baltimore County. The lease was signed in December 2011. Since then, very little progress has been made towards the stated goals of developing a residential, retail & commercial, and medical community where American Military Veterans receive preference on renting spaces.

The developers have never done such a massive, multi-million dollar project, but the VA gave them the lease anyway. The developers possess neither the experience nor financial strength to do the Ft. Howard development. 


Since that signing, the VAMC property has had numerous fires destroy or damage more than a million dollars worth of buildings. The lease requires Munshell & Williams to take care of and protect the property. But because they don't, they are legally bound to clean up the fire mess and replace the buildings. They haven't done a damned thing about the mess, nor do they protect it by always providing security fire watch for the remaining property 24/7 - as is required. 

Consequently, Baltimore County hit Munshell & Williams with a $43,800.00 fine. Which remains unpaid.



August 8, 2011 - Fire in main hospital building. Due to it being mostly built of noncombustible material it did not spread too far, but did damage the front lobby area badly. In the photo you can see smoke damage above the door and two windows.

Way before that, the Federal VA Police Service had been taken away from Ft. Howard. After decades of excellent service by teams of good cops 24/7. I know, because I was a patient there over the decades and had gone to a doctor's appointment at the medical clinic there and was shocked to see that the receptionists were siting behind a brand new bullet proof, clear barrier. They said the VA took the cops away and were no longer there to protect them. But the bullet proof glass only protected who was working in that little administrative office area, not the whole clinic of doctor's offices- including patients.  

July 14, 2012 - Fire fought by 150 personnel using 50 pieces of fire equipment.

After that 2nd fire on the 14th, the VA's police were assigned back there 24/7. 

September 6, 2014 - During the Defenders' Day Celebration (in the park next to the VAMC), I spoke to a VA cop who said that in the first month after full VA Police service was restored, they had "done over 50 lock-ups. Mostly young men in their early 20s, from far and wide, coming in to party." Put that in your pipe and smoke it. That represents a lot of good-future-jeopardizing police arrest records. The way that the property looked completely abandoned and left to rot, to most people, unfortunately some people felt they weren't hurting anyone by misusing the property.  

September 2014 - VA Police ordered to only patrol medical clinic. 

I know that for awhile, sometime back then, the VA cops were only there when the clinic was open. I do not remember exactly when this period of day shift service only was.  

September 12, 2014 - Fire burns in dumpster behind main hospital building. An electric power tool, left on by the crew scrapping metals and other valuables, had started the fire, but little damage was done to the property.

December 6, 2014 - Fire destroys large 3 story house.

December 20, 2014  - Fire burns house, and it takes 5 hours to fight using 15 pieces of fire equipment.

December 24, 2014 - Baltimore County Fire Department orders developers Tim Munshell and Carl Williams to repair defective fire hydrants by January 2, 2015. And provide fire watch 24/7. BCFD found that eleven out of twenty-two hydrants were not working.

January 13, 2015 - BCFD tags non-functioning hydrants.

January 20, 2015 - BCFD returns to Ft. Howard, inspects it again, sends the developer a list of non-functioning hydrants and reiterates that a 24/7 fire watch is needed. Fire inspector never saw any fire watch while doing inspection. He stated that sometimes security was at the gate, sometimes it wasn't.

January 27, 2015 - James William Folk arrested for December 20, 2014 fire, and charged with second degree arson and second degree burglary. Found guilty of Burglary-Fourth Degree-Storehouse. Prison sentence not listed in online court records.

May 5, 2015 - Office trailers on fire. At 6:21 AM responding firefighters could find no security personnel, so they had to cut the lock off gate at entrance to VAMC property. Then they could not get fire hydrants on VAMC property to work. Fire burned on till tanker truck arrival.

July 21, 2015 - Fire happens again, and VA Police go back to patrolling property 24/7. 

July 31, 2015 - County Code Enforcement Citation issued alleging developer has not complied with BCFD order of December 24, 2014. BCFD alleges that no 24/7 fire watch was maintained from January through May, 2015. Civil penalty of $200.00 a day was assessed. 

August 7, 2015 - Developer told by VA that water lines on the property were turned off by the VA because of water leaks.

November 19, 2015 - BCFD inspected Ft. Howard and found that those eleven hydrants were still out of service.

At a hearing detailed in the next paragraph, BCFD Captain Haley said there were 7 fires at Ft. Howard, but I can only find web published info on 6 fires. 6 or 7, its horrifying enough


Captain Ronald Haley of the Edgemere Fire Station testified before an Administrative Law Judge at the hearing on a Citation issued on July 21, 2015 by the Baltimore County Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections for the failure of the developer to comply with the order of the Baltimore County Fire Department dated December 24, 2014 for which a civil penalty was proposed for $43,800.00; as well as for a Citation/Notice to abate nuisance pursuant to Baltimore County Code dated July 31, 2015 for which a civil penalty of $1,000.00 was proposed; said Citation/Notice alleging that the developer created and has allowed a nuisance to exist on its property known as Ft. Howard, in Baltimore County, Maryland.


Here are links to some of my sources of information and facts:

*http://forthoward.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Order-and-Decision-1-13-161.pdf

http://www.maryland.va.gov/publications/newsreleases/2014/07-01-2014_FtHowardLease.asp

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-08-08/news/bs-md-co-fire-fort-howard-20110808_1_fire-damages-fort-howard-baltimore-county-firefighters

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x31s68q 10 minute video of fire at Ft. Howard.

http://patch.com/maryland/dundalk/fire-strikes-vacant-edgemere-house

http://npevfd26.org/fort-howard-house-fire/


http://patch.com/maryland/dundalk/exclusive-fire-fort-howard-0

http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/news/policenews/iwatch/ManArrestedinConnectionWithFireatFortHoward



Burned down homes seen on Thanksgiving Day 2015. I suggest you click on the first photo then view them all in full size:





The following two were burned:



The photo above is part of the view from the fronts of those burned down homes. Looking straight down the Chesapeake Bay to the Bay Bridge. The loss is making me sick. Hard to type through tears.

Here are some of the buildings left to be saved:




Above is the old army post theater. Built before electrical amplification equipment became the norm, its stage design provides wonderful acoustical sound from anyone speaking or playing non-amplified acoustic music. 


Photography by David Robert Crews {a.k.a. ursusdave}
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