Ann Arbor firefighters respond to near record amount of calls during storms

An Ann Arbor Fire Department truck is parked outside the Forest Avenue Parking Structure, where wet drills are taking place on June 3, 2021. In the distance, more trainings are taking place at University Towers. (Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR – The Ann Arbor Fire Department responded to six times the amount of calls they typically receive during last week’s storm events.

The department responded to more than 143 incidents in the 24 hours following the first major storm -- and that figure is likely an underestimate, said Ann Arbor Fire Chief Mike Kennedy.

“I’ve been with the fire department just short of four years now, and this was the most calls we ever got in at least a 24-hour time span,” said Kennedy. “We documented 143 incidents, but we’re pretty sure there’s an additional 20-30 on top of that.”

This is due to units on the scene being alerted to other incidents nearby. Kennedy said in order to maximize department efforts, off-duty staff were called in and an emergency command center was implemented in what he called an “all hands on deck situation.”

From a mutual aid perspective, other Washtenaw County fire departments were busy responding to incidents in their own areas. “We were all in the same boat,” said Kennedy.

AAFD units responded to downed wires, wires on fire, downed trees and fire and carbon monoxide leaks from generators.

“At a minimum, generators need to be 20 feet away from the structure,” said Kennedy. “Those things put out so much carbon monoxide that even if they’re outside and a window is open (it’s a risk).”

With so much happening at once, Kennedy said the situation could have been much worse.

“Generally with the volume of wires down, I’m shocked that we didn’t have any structure fires,” he said.

This, he said, was due to downed lines being inactive due to the sweeping power outages, though the department did see a large amount of live wires as well.

In addition to responding to storm-related and general city incidents, AAFD supported the A2 Relief Station set up at Pioneer High School for those without power.

“A lot of the times when we stand up shelters, very rarely do they get used,” said Kennedy. “I don’t know the exact number, but it was close to 200 people a day. It was dramatically more than we thought would go through there. It speaks to the impact of the city of how wide-reaching the effects were.”

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.