Fighting Fires Difficult in Tough Economy

By: Jamie Edmonds Email
By: Jamie Edmonds Email

The way firefighters fight fires hasn't changed, but the way departments in Michigan do business has.

"We would like to have four in a truck, but most days we only have three," Jackson Fire Chief Larry Bosell said. "It's critical when you only have two."

Then by Bosell's own definition, a fire last week in Summit Township became critical when his department arrived first on the scene with only two men on the truck.

"Because of the Michigan two in- two out rule, they aren't allowed to actually fight the fire until another unit shows up," Bosell said.

Which delayed this fire fight, at least for a few minutes.

Bosell said the city has seven open firefighter positions, and he doesn't know when or if they will be filled.

"We're working short in the city of Jackson based on budget constraints and further threats from the legislature that they might cut back on revenue sharing," he said.

Numerous departments were called into fight the fire in Summit Township last week, but if it had happened this week, it might have taken Summit Township longer to respond to fire in its own jurisdiction.

"What the township has done to save money is, they're not going to pay overtime when we fall below the four staff per day," Local Union 1639 President Scott Stoker said.

Which meant Station Two in Summit Township closed for 12 hours Monday and will do so again on Wednesday.

"It's decreasing the service to residents," Stoker said. "You have to come to Station One which doubles the response time."

Cutbacks from state and local governments mean serious adjustments in the field firefighters say, which will eventually have serious consequences.

"If we have to cut further, then we're at the point where that will jeopardize public safety," Bosell said.

The firefighters' union president estimates closing Station Two ever so often only saves the Township $400 dollars per day. We could not confirm that figure with township officials Wednesday.


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