detroit fire department

The Colbert Report

The Detroit Fire Department is getting calls from software companies as far away as California and Oregon.

The companies want to donate updated alert systems after the department's current system was featured on the comedy TV show, "The Colbert Report.”

The show aired a Detroit Free Press video about emergency alerts coming into fire stations via fax machine.

Firefighters rig up contraptions like soda cans full of screws on top of the fax machines.

So when the cans fall over, firefighters hear the alert.

Detroit City Fire Department

Detroit Fire Commissioner Donald Austin is resigning.

Austin had to deal with declining city budgets and rising discontent among the city’s firefighters during his tenure as Detroit Fire Commissioner.

He was hired by Mayor Dave Bing in 2011 to oversee Detroit’s overworked fire department.

In announcing Austin’s resignation, the outgoing Detroit Mayor praised his leadership of the fire department.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit is getting a $24 million federal grant that will be used to hire 150 firefighters in the city.

The grant was announced this week by Michigan's U.S. senators.

It comes through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program.

The Detroit Free Press says the award is an annual one, but it's believed the hires would be supported by the grant for more than one year.

Executive Fire Commissioner Don Austin calls the federal money a "godsend."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Detroit firefighters are getting some help from a national charity to buy some basic equipment.

The National Firefighters Endowment is trying to raise $100,000 to pay for gloves, boots and flashlights.

“We’re hoping to step in and help get their back, help get provisions for them (and) make sure that they have everything they need to do their job safely,” says Shane Parkins, who’s with the endowment.

Detroit’s is one of the busiest fire departments in the country.  One of the reasons is the high volume of arson fires in the city. 

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Emergency manager Kevyn Orr is working on a plan to train up to 100 new firefighters, as well as moving fire stations and supplying them with new equipment.

Plan developer Edward J. Plawecki Jr. tells Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley that his work is a response to a severe shortage of personnel and equipment. Detroit now has 796 firefighters, 40 operating fire stations and 20 ambulances.

The newspaper says union leaders have been meeting regularly with Plawecki on the drafting of the plan, which will be released in mid-September.

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Detroit firefighters have won the right to subpoena and depose top members of Mayor Dave Bing’s administration.

The firefighters union is suing the city. They say that decisions to close firehouses have jeopardized public safety in violation of the city charter and national fire protection standards—and have left targeted areas of the city virtually without adequate service.

Detroit Firefighters Association President Dan McNamara says they’re “looking for the decision-makers,” and they want them under oath.

HPZ1442 / YouTube

Scott Ziegler has a more interesting job than the rest of us, and he knows it.

The Highland Park firefighter recently posted a montage of footage that he took using a camera mounted to his helmet. 

The YouTube video, "2012 a year on my lid"  has become an Internet sensation with nearly 1,000,000 views.

It highlights some of the more harrowing moments of fighting fire in the Detroit area.

Some Detroit firefighters got early Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve--new mattresses for their firehouse.

Art Van Furniture is donating 150 mattresses. 14 were delivered to a firehouse on the city’s east side Monday.

The gifts highlight how many Detroit services are heavily subsidized by private donations. The donation is part of a broader campaign to garner private donations for the city’s public safety and recreation centers.

Detroit mayor Dave Bing says the city hasn’t made the necessary investments in those places “for a long time.”

Stateside: Two firefighters' impressions of "BURN"

Dec 19, 2012
detroitfirefilm.org

It’s possible to leave “BURN” feeling as if you’ve just combated the inferno of multiple house fires.

The documentary- which utilizes actual footage of Detroit firefighters- is strikingly realistic, unlike previous films of its kind.

Firefighter Chris Palm and Sergeant Tony Angelucey shared their accounts of entering burning buildings.

Though an experienced firefighter, Angelucey was pleased with the shift of perspective the film afforded him.

“It was shocking to see what we do. We’re always doing it, so we don’t usually get to sit back and watch it unravel,” he said.

Stateside: Detroit firefighters documented in "BURN"

Dec 6, 2012
detroitfirefilm.org

Firefighter Walter Harris was killed in 2008 while attempting to put out a blazing abandoned building.

The headlines surrounding Harris’s death caught the attention of Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez.

Both filmmakers agreed a story deserved to be told about Harris and other Detroit firefighters.  

“Tom and I knew there was a story here that hadn’t been told about firefighters,” said Sanchez.

The story manifested into the new film, "BURN."

The Detroit Fire Department responds to a fire in 2010. Filmmakers embedded with the DFD for most of 2011.
Patricia Drury

The documentary "Burn" made its debut in Detroit over the weekend.

The film was shot by Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez.

The filmmakers say they were inspired to make a movie about Detroit firefighters from this great NPR story by Jackie Lydon from 2008:

Detroit Firehouse / via facebook

Detroit’s first responders say they’re under siege from all angles—and some officers say their ranks are reaching a breaking point.

Detroit’s police and fire departments have taken some steep cuts in the past few months. Police officers in particular have taken major pay and benefit cuts, and are now working twelve-hour shifts.

And relations with city leaders have turned downright hostile. At a community meeting with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing last week, that anger boiled over.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Another shuttered fire station in Detroit has been vandalized.

City officials confirmed Monday night that the former Engine 10 quarters in southwest Detroit was hit by vandals, and that some copper piping was stolen.

A fire department spokesman would not release further details about the extent of the vandalism Tuesday, saying the department was still looking into it.

Wikipedia

The head of Detroit’s firefighters union says the department is in “utter chaos” after new overtime restrictions came down this week.

City officials acknowledge the situation is difficult, but say it’s under control.

Union chief Dan McNamara says the drastic overtime restrictions—announced by memo to firefighters earlier this week--will basically cripple a fire department that’s already understaffed.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Power outages continue
 Utilities say crews worked through the night to restore electricity to thousands of Michigan homes and businesses without power following this week's severe thunderstorms, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

A round of firefighter layoffs in Detroit might not be as severe as city officials announced earlier this week.

Michigan U.S. Senator Carl Levin says Detroit will be awarded a $22.5 million federal grant that would save most of the fire department jobs slated for layoff.

Word of the grant comes just a few days after the layoff announcement. The job cuts were to take effect at the end of July.

Detroit's Fire Commissioner says his department is at the end of its resources due to budget cuts.

Donald Austin spoke to a Detroit City Council committee meeting on Monday.

Even with the cuts, Detroit’s Police and Fire Departments take up well over half of the city's budget. And both departments regularly go over-budget, mostly because of overtime.

Austin says it’s proven almost impossible to cut overtime, when he has to fight so many fires in vacant buildings--which total 30-60% of all department runs, depending on the shift.

User RickM2007 / flickriver.com

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.

Metro Detroit’s Homeland Security agencies say they’ve made progress on border security and disaster preparedness in the past 10 years. But they warn federal budget cuts and a new way of allocating Homeland Security grants could jeopardize that.

A U.S. House Homeland Security subcommittee held a hearing called “The State of Northern Border Preparedness: A Review of Federal, State and Local Coordination” at Wayne State University Friday.

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke sits on the committee.

The Detroit City Council got a briefing on chronic troubles with the city’s Emergency Medical Services Monday.

EMS Chief Jerald James told the Council that only 19 of the city’s 47  EMS vehicles are in use right now. The other 27 are awaiting repair.

James also  says the understaffed department also has the money to hire 57 new employees--but  can’t find people to fill those positions.

flickr - user cutedtownboi

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has forced the resignations of the city's fire commissioner, James Mack, and its deputy, Seth Doyle.

The Mayor did so after hearing about an alleged theft that occurred after a fire official visited a home in Detroit.

The Mayor's office said they heard about the alleged theft from media reports.

Dan Lijana, with the mayor's office, said the breakdown in communication with the fire department and the concerns over slow response times to emergencies were their reasons for forcing the resignations.

Mayor Bing is quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying:

"When things aren't working, we will make the moves necessary to protect the services and citizens of the city. We have to peel this onion back and get the problem fixed."