This article was originally published at the Dearborn Press & Guide website, authored by Andrea Blum and can be found at the original page here.
The Dearborn Fire Department will add 12 firefighters to its ranks in order to meet a rising demand for service.
The City Council recently approved the staffing increase by authorizing a $200,000 appropriation from the general fund balance.
The move comes on the heels of an increased demand for EMS services and new mandate to assign three firefighters to ladder trucks.
The staffing boost will increase the department from 128 to 140 firefighters for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year and also be included in the fiscal year 2018 budget.
“Although our fire department continues to operate above nationally recommended standards, it has seen a significant increase in call volumes in the last few years,” Council President Susan Dabaja said at the April 11 meeting. “I think there’s a consensus here that this is something we’d all like to see and we need.”
Councilman Brian O’Donnell added words of support to approving the proposal.
“If you look at the gradual increase in the amount of runs that our fire department makes, it continues to grow,” he said. “That’s something we take very seriously in the city. I know it’s an investment, but I feel like it’s a good investment for long-term viability.”
Council President Pro Tem Thomas Tafelski said that most of the need comes from Dearborn, but also questioned whether the cost structure with the city of Melvindale should be revisited. The Melvindale Fire Department merged with Dearborn in 2013.
Fire Chief Joseph Murray said Melvindale is still an operational benefit to Dearborn.
“Dearborn is actually getting a lot of service from that connection,” Murray told the council. “It works both ways. Their call volume is relatively low so they have a lot of availability, especially when it comes to ambulances to back us up.”
Councilman Michael Sareini said the move puts the department in line with national standards and enables the city to better answer all 911 calls coming in from its residents.
“As a city … it is our duty and obligation to our residents that we must answer those calls,” Sareini said. “There is no price you can put on the safety of our residents. That’s the fundamental aspect of the government.”
Jeff Lentz, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 412, gave the council a glimpse of the rise in calls for service during the last several decades.
According to Lentz, the staff of 125 firefighters made 5,500 runs in 1985. By 2002, runs had increased to 9,700 with a staff of 121 firefighters. In 2016, the department was staffed with 128 firefighters who handled roughly 15,000 runs.
As a result, roaming brownouts were happening in which rigs were out of service due to a lack of firefighters to staff them daily, according to Lentz. “That includes Rescue No. 3, which protects the city’s south end and is out of service probably 2/3 of the time,” he said. “That never occurred in the past.”
The 12 additional firefighters will prevent brownouts on a daily basis, according to Lentz, and ensure all vehicles will be in service going forward.
“This is not only increasing the safety of the citizens of Dearborn, it’s increasing our service we provide for them, and it’s also increasing the safety of the firefighters that are working for the citizens,” he said.
The new firefighters should be on board by mid-May, according to Murray.