Detroit seeks to prevent fire deaths, cut costs

Feb 1, 2012

The Detroit Fire Department is aiming to save lives—and money—by preventing heating-related home fires.

Fire officials say there’s a “noticeable peak” in fire-related deaths in the winter months--largely due to people improperly using space heaters and other heat sources, like propane tanks.  19 people died in the winter months last year.

Detroit fire captain Christopher Dixon says that’s a tough but unfortunate calculation many Detroiters make each month.

 “They’re choosing between feeding their family and the utility bill. And a lot of the times the utility bill doesn’t win out, their utilities are cut off, and they turn to using these as a permanent source of heat,” Dixon said. “This is a bad idea.” 

So the department is offering free home safety inspections and smoke detectors to all Detroiters who request them.

Fire Commissioner Donald Austin says the effort aims to save lives and cut costs. He says with Detroit in a fiscal crisis and major budget cuts on the horizon, the department is looking to cut back on the other end of its mission, too—EMS service.

Austin said he’s considering developing a “no-send” category of EMS calls, so that the department can conserve resources for the most critical cases.

“We’re working with private ambulance companies to kind of help fill in that gap,” Austin said. “We’re looking at reducing some of the type of EMS calls that we respond to.”

Detroit residents who want a free safety inspection should contact the Detroit Fire Marshal, Public Information Section at (313) 596-2968.