steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has ordered all U.S. and state flags to be lowered to honor fallen firefighters.

The governor's announcement is in accordance with President Barack Obama's proclamation honoring the National Firefighters Memorial Service.

The flags are to be flown at half-staff or half-mast on Sunday until sunset.

U.S. Navy / Wikimedia Commons /

Some Democratic state lawmakers are calling for the Legislature to add breast cancer to the list of conditions covered by a state health care fund for first responders. The fund was created two years ago.

State Senator Curtis Hertel said policymakers were slow to recognize the risk to female firefighters, in part, because there are so many more men in the profession. But he said new studies show the dangers to female first responders.

Kate Wells

Firefighters have been pushing to get the cancer coverage they were promised by state lawmakers for more than a year now. 

And while the $3 million approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday still has to be approved by the full House and Senate, it is a sign that crucial Republican leaders are on board. 

Kate Wells

Firefighters are one step closer to getting the cancer coverage they were promised by the state more than a year ago.

The senate approved $1 million today for the First Responder's Fund, which is supposed to cover firefighters who get job-related cancer.

Lawmakers created that fund in 2014 but never put any money in it.

Meanwhile, firefighters are being diagnosed with cancer and thinking they’re covered – only to find out they’re not, when their worker’s comp claims are denied.  

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

More than 200 firefighters rallied at the state Capitol in Lansing today.

They're pushing hard to finally win the cancer coverage the state promised them more than a year ago.

That’s when the Legislature created a first responder’s fund for firefighters who get job-related cancer – except, lawmakers never put any money in that fund.

Since then, the state union says at least 8 firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer, one of whom died last month.  


Firefighters will rally in Lansing on Tuesday as they push for cancer coverage that lawmakers promised them more than a year ago – but never delivered.

In 2014, the legislature created a worker’s comp fund for firefighters who get job-related cancer. Governor Snyder signed it in January 2015, noting there was still no funding designated for the fund, and instructing lawmakers to find money for it.

But more than a year later, there’s still no money. So firefighters are getting cancer, thinking they’re covered, only to find out they’re not.


Firefighters could finally get the cancer coverage they were promised by state lawmakers more than a year ago.

The Legislature created a worker’s comp fund for firefighters in 2014. Governor Snyder signed the law in January 2015, telling lawmakers to find money for the fund.

More than half of all states already offer some kind of cancer coverage to firefighters, who have elevated risks for several cancers.

When Michigan firefighters get work-related cancer, they’re supposed to be covered by the state. But that’s not happening. 

Because more than a year after lawmakers created a cancer-coverage fund for firefighters, they still haven't put any money in it. 

flickr user The National Guard /

Imagine for a moment what it's like to be a firefighter rushing into a burning home. The smoke can be so thick you can't see your own hand in front of your face.

You're searching for survivors and trying to knock down that fire while doing your best to stay safe.

flickr user The National Guard /

When we talk about post-traumatic stress disorder, the conversation usually focuses on our members of the military, both active-duty and veterans.

But that misses a large group of men and women who struggle with PTSD: our first responders.

flickr user The National Guard /

This week we've been talking about the higher cancer risk that firefighters face.

And the good news about all this is that Michigan passed a new law this year, creating a fund to cover firefighters if they get certain kinds of cancer on the job.

But there are two problems.

First, female firefighters feel they're being unfairly left out, because while the law covers prostate and testicular cancer, it doesn't cover breast cancer.

Provided by Duane Kelley

We want to fill you in on what’s going on with Detroit’s retired firefighters.

These are the men and women who ran into burning buildings, day after day, some of them for decades.

And while they made it through the city’s bankruptcy with their pensions pretty much intact, they lost their health care.

Hovercrafts float on air and are used in ice rescues
Flickr user Eric Bégin

Next weekend, firefighters and rescue personnel can brush up on their ice rescue skills at an event called the Ice Rescue Conference and Education in Muskegon.

House fire in Detroit.
Dave Hogg / Flickr

"Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus."

 "We Hope for Better Things; It Shall Rise From the Ashes."

Fr. Gabriel Richard wrote that after a tremendous fire in 1805 that destroyed most of Detroit.

Those words from the French-Canadian priest became the motto of city - a city whose history is filled with many different kinds of fires.

Michael Jackman spells out this history in his story for The Metro Times.

Listen to our conversation with Jackman below.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Police and firefighter unions are pushing to be exempt from a state law that puts limits on municipal union contracts.  

A state Senate committee takes up the bill Wednesday. 

It used to be that when municipal unions bargained a new contract that included a pay increase, those raises would be retroactive to when the last contract expired. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan firefighters are a step closer to getting help paying for treatment of a serious illness they may contract on the job.

The state Senate this week overwhelmingly approved a bill to create a $15 million fund to cover the medical costs firefighters incur when they fall sick with cancer.

The fund would compensate insurance companies that cover firefighters who make claims for treatment of bladder, skin, brain and a half dozen other forms of cancer. 

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. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are grappling with an issue that pits Michigan’s firefighters against insurance companies.

A bill before the Senate Judiciary committee would expand workers compensation coverage to Michigan’s five thousand paid firefighters to include ten types of cancer, including respiratory tract, bladder, skin, and brain.

The change would ‘presume’ fighting fires caused the cancers and not require firefighters to prove exposure on the job is responsible.

User Asher196 / Wikimedia Commons

In Bay City, police officers are being trained to fight fires.

That’s after the city’s commission voted to merge the police and fire departments into one Public Safety Department on Monday.

The move means police officers will fight fires in addition to their normal duties.

Fourteen of the city’s 44 full-time firefighters will be laid off. 


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.

user derekskey / Flickr

First the police department, and now the fire department.

The city of Pontiac, like many cities across the U.S., is facing a future with less money.

The state-appointed emergency manager in Pontiac, Lou Schimmel, wants to close the city's fire department.

From WXYZ News:

Closing the fire department, Schimmel says, is one part of the solution and will save the city $3 million. Schimmel says pay and benefit cuts will come with the deal. "If we do everything the same, we'll be out of business and nobody's going to get paid," Schimmel says. "They'll all lose their jobs." Schimmel has given firefighters until Friday to ratify the deal.

The Detroit Free Press quotes Kenneth Estell, a trustee with Pontiac Firefighters Union Local 376 who says the union will fight the changes "to the end":

“We love our jobs. We love our citizens. There’s a lot of tradition in this department. And we’re saving the citizens money. And when it comes to the safety of the citizens, we provide a good service.”

Estell says they've offered alternatives to the proposed cuts.

Pontiac's emergency manager says their proposals don't come close to the $3 million in cuts needed. From the Detroit Free Press:

“It’s the only option -- we save $3 million,” Schimmel said, adding the changes would take effect in January. “There is no way in the world we can save $3 million by keeping our own fire department. They didn’t even come close to a million dollars, let alone $3 million. And we are running out of cash.”

Pontiac firefighters have until Dec 9 to approve of a plan that would "offer early retirement to 18 firefighters, bonuses to others and the opportunity to be hired by Waterford Township."

As a state-appointed emergency manager, Schimmel has the authority to dissolve existing union contracts.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Vice President Joe Biden used a speech in Flint to chastise Congressional Republicans for stalling the President’s jobs bill.  

 Senate Republicans blocked a procedural vote on the $447 billion bill last night.    The bill’s tax hike on millionaires was a major reason cited.  

The bill contains money for hiring firefighters and police officers. Biden talked about how budget cuts in recent years have slashed the number of police officers and firefighters on Flint streets.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

For a second time this year, Lansing voters will be asked to decide if they want to increase their property taxes. There are fears of deep cuts in police and fire protection if the millage is rejected again. 

 In May, Lansing voters rejected a millage increase. After that, the city laid off 47 police officers and firefighters to close a multi-million dollar budget gap. 

Now the city’s finance director is predicting another $12 to $15 million gap next year.

DTE energy in Detroit
Ian Freimuth / flickr user

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) issued a report today on DTE's role in the fires that swept through Detroit during a windstorm on September 7th, 2010. The report found no wrongdoing on DTE's part.