Detroit firefighters battle 26 fires in 24 hours

Fires come one day after Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announces 264 firefighters will be laid off

By Shawn Ley - Reporter

DETROIT - More suspicious fires burned early Tuesday in Detroit. 3, large, vacant structures caught fire at the corner of Belvidereand St. Paulon the city's east side. Firefighters there say it's a possibility that the same person suspected of setting close to a dozen fires Monday could be responsible for this morning's fires.

Fires raging through Detroit

Detroit Firefighters say they had to fight 26 fires in the city in the past 24 hours and at the same time deal with the blow delivered by Mayor Dave Bing.  The mayor announced that 164 firefighters will be laid off due to budget problems by the end of July.

What the Mayor didn't mention is the reduction of Detroit's elite arson squad.

IMAGES: Arsons plague Detroit's east side

The team of 19, highly trained law enforcement officers is now down to 14 investigators and that number is expected to be cut to 9 in July.

Investigators call the firefighter layoffs and the cuts in the arson squad "The Perfect Storm" of bringing the city of Detroitright back to being the arson capital of the world.  Investigators warn that with fewer investigators, currently there are no arson squad members staffing the afternoon and overnight shifts.

Many fires won't be investigated and that may embolden firebugs, encourage criminals to light fires to cover up major crimes and the issue of car insurance fraud may return to Detroitin a big way.  Arson squad investigators say they've helped rid the city of the problem of people setting their car on fire in Detroitonly to claim that it was stolen.  Now, people may again try to make insurance claims on car fires knowing that the fires won't likely be assigned to an investigator.

Detroit's arson squad sent Mayor Bing a detailed analysis of the impact cutting the arson squad will have on the city and overall public safety.  Insiders tell Local 4, they received no response from the Mayor.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing on Monday said 164 firefighters would be laid off by the end of July.

"Since I became mayor, I've made public safety my top priority and I've said I would protect the jobs of police and firefighters, but fiscal realities have made this untenable," Bing said.

Bing said his administration has "every expectation" of being awarded an federal grant to rehire 108 of the firefighters.

"Many, if not most, of the remaining 56 firefighters are expected to be recalled to the fire department through attrition," Bing said.

Until the Fire Department receives the grant, Bing said Fire Commissioner Don Austin and his staff have developed a plan to maintain safety in the community.

  • Better deploying engines from adjacent sectors and using newly installed GPS systems in the engines and rigs to best dispatch fire department personnel;
  • Conducting thorough risks/gain analysis of interior versus exterior fire suppression;
  • Increase the use of CERT and Fire Corps
  • Continue community fire prevention education

"Again, laying off any of our courageous and dedicated public safety personnel is the last thing I want to do at this point, but I have to face this hard reality. I have every confidence in Commissioner Austin and the men and woman of the Fire Department to maintain their highest standards of fire services and public safety for our citizens," Bing said.

Detroit Fire Department facts

Total Uniformed & Civilian Personnel = 1257

Total Sworn Fire Fighters = 881

Total EMS Technicians = 248

Fire Suppression = Estimated 30,000 calls for service annually; with an estimated 9,500 false alarms.

EMS= Estimated 135,000 calls for service annually.

IMAGES: Arsons plague Detroit's east side

Official statement from Detroit Fire Fighters Association

In a disastrous turn of events, Mayor Dave Bing today issued layoff notices to 164 fire fighters and announced the closing of 16 fire companies putting into immediate danger the safety of Detroit's fire fighters, residents, visitors and taxpayers.


"These decisions are indefensible," said Dan McNamara, president of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association Local 344. "Earlier this year, the city and the DFFA sat together and hammered out an agreement that would have greatly minimized these cuts and kept the city protected. However, at the last minute, they decided not to honor the deal – even though it had already been signed."


McNamara continued, "Mayor Bing is now calling for $23 million in cuts from the Detroit Fire Department. In the agreement they backed out of, we proposed up to $31 million in real savings including significant give backs and necessary restructuring – with no layoffs and only closing six fire companies permanently."


These cuts by the city will put its Fire Department and its residents at great risk – increasing response times and further taxing an already greatly reduced workforce.


"For as long as we've been fighting fires in the City of Detroit, we have guaranteed that if you call us we will come," said McNamara. "If these cuts remain, there will be times when we won't have the necessary resources to respond. Add to this the Fire Commission Donald Austin's previously stated policy to ‘let buildings burn' we have a disaster waiting to happen that will likely result in not only the loss of property, but potentially the loss of lives."


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