Detroit Fire Department is forced to make big cuts, eliminating several engine, ladder companies

Tight budget leaves Detroit Fire Department with tough cuts, demotions, layoffs

Author: Rod Meloni, Local 4 Business Editor, @RodMeloni
Published On: Jul 02 2012 10:58:54 PM EDT   Updated On: Jul 02 2012 11:14:51 PM EDT
DETROIT -

Engine Company 23 at East Grand Boulevard and Moran Street usually sends three engines, an emergency unit and a captain along with a ladder to calls.

The engine company is going away along with many others. The remaining companies will not send three engines but only two.

That's because Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's Fire Department cuts started taking effect Monday night. The cuts have people on edge in a city that sees its fair share of fires.

Among the cuts are engines 5, 8, 20, 21, 23, 31, 33, 38, 42 and 47. Ladders 1, 10, 16 and 24 also are gone. Moreover, the Detroit Fire Department will be demoting two battalion chiefs to captain, 15 captains to lieutenant, 41 lieutenants to sergeant, 90 sergeants to firefighters among other demotions. A mini pumper called a tactical unit also is being removed from service.

But the city of Detroit burns nightly. Throw in drought conditions and firefighter equipment cuts and Detroiters are understandably concerned.

"The whole situation is bad around here," said Steven Childs.

Childs has lived in the neighborhood near Engine 23 for 20 years. He is weary and frightened at Detroit's limited emergency response. That's why he keeps a baseball bat and a fire extinguisher at his front door.

"I'm constantly on guard here due to the fact that police aren't what they should be, the Fire Department is not what it should be," he said.

That was how he felt before the cuts to the Fire Department. Now, he feels no comfort in losing the engine.

Five of the cut engines being removed from service are considered "browned out" in spotty service for the past seven years. One of the four ladders cut is considered "browned out," too.

For the firefighters, overtime will be a thing of the past. The demotions should push out younger firefighters, meaning the average age of a Detroit "smoke eater" is now 43.

More: Mayor announces 164 firefighters will be laid off

"Like 'American Pie' by Don McClean, the day the music died," said union Chief Dan McNamara. "This may be the day that firefighting died as we know it. And we're very proud of what we do."

The mayor's office said no one likes this but it is where the city is. They have to make cuts. They have no choice.