You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 3:29 p.m.

Closing down fire stations: Ann Arbor City Council candidates offer thoughts on reorganization plan

By Ryan J. Stanton

A major issue the eight candidates running for Ann Arbor City Council hope to be at the table for later this year is the proposed reorganization of the city's fire department.

By closing three stations and reopening the one at Stadium and Packard, which was closed several years ago, the city would switch from a five-station model to a three-station model.

"The proposal to close fire stations is on the immediate horizon and alarms me," said Democrat Jack Eaton, who is challenging 4th Ward incumbent Margie Teall in Tuesday's primary. "I think that is not the correct manner to address the problems with fire response times."


The Ann Arbor Fire Department could go down from five to three stations later this year after the Stadium bridges reopen, unless city officials have a change of heart or the City Council opposes it.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Eaton, who is heavily critical of the city for cutbacks in public safety over the last several years, said he'd push for more staffing in the fire department.

Teall said she's not an expert on fire department organization, so she's going to listen carefully to what the fire chief has to say before making up her mind.

"If this can make it more efficient to get more people to fires quicker, then it makes sense to move ahead," Teall said. "But I think that's something we're still looking at."

Fire Chief Chuck Hubbard has recommended the city close fire stations to better concentrate the department's limited staffing resources and provide a better response to fires.

The city's current response model has just three firefighters staffed at each station. Hubbard's plan would enable four firefighters to be on duty at each of the three stations, and four firefighters are needed on scene to be able to enter a burning building.

Vivienne Armentrout and Sumi Kailasapathy also said the proposed closure of fire stations concerns them and they think the city needs to put more resources into the fire department as well.

Armentrout is running against Chuck Warpehoski for the open 5th Ward seat on council and Kailasapathy is competing against Eric Sturgis for the open 1st Ward seat.

Warpehoski and Sturgis said they're still making up their minds on the proposed reorganization plan and they can't say how they'd vote just yet.

"At this point, I want more information on it," Sturgis said, adding he's open to the idea but he'd also like to see the city hire more firefighters.

Council Member Tony Derezinski, D-2nd Ward, is defending his seat in Tuesday's primary against Democratic challenger Sally Hart Petersen. Derezinski said he's still making up his mind on the issue, but he has a lot of faith in Hubbard and will take his advice seriously.

"That has to be looked at," he said of closing stations. "So far that has been taken off the active agenda and it is being studied as we speak."

Petersen said she attended a neighborhood meeting on the proposed plan last week. She said she originally was scared of the idea of going from five to three stations, but then she talked to Hubbard and he explained how it actually could improve the city's response to fires.

"For everyone in Ward 2, we actually make out pretty well with this because they're closing the station on Platt but opening the station on Stadium and Packard," Petersen said. "And they're putting more personnel in each station, so we're actually better served."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Mon, Aug 6, 2012 : 4:06 a.m.

This is like high school politics. Whose vying to be most popular with the unions instead of making grown up decisions based upon facts and financial viability.


Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 5:37 p.m.

@ Peregrine- This is not personal. You are misinformed on the two in- two out rule and how it is applied. Firefighters under this rule should have two firefighters backing up the entry team under normal firefighting operations. However, this rule can be ignored at a firefighters discretion if there is an imediate danger to life and health of a victim neeeding to be rescued. This basically means if an Engine company arrives with 3 people, and there is a victim in the structure entry can be made to save that life. The NFPA, OSHA, and MOSHA rule meant as a guide to follow with exceptions to the rule. To all, 4 FF on the first arrivning Engine to the scene is preferable, but until AA is willing to staff all its appartus with 4 that will not happen. The 3 station model will increase response times period. people have to remember that your FD responds to almost every 911 call, not just structure fires. The Chief is being dishonest in his statements that response times will be better. Tax paying citizens will be short changed in areas where stations are closed. This model will not save money, and taxes will be the same or higher for less protection and service. The other fact people in AA should be furious about is the lack of staffing for the departments aerial trucks. There is no excuse for the AA FD not to have a minimum of 1 tower truck in service with 4 FF to respond to the numerous areas of twon with buildings over two stories.

Mr. Obvious

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.

Council Candidates, it's real simple; Ann Arbor had 6 Stations at its peak, and about 124 personnel. look at other similar size communities and see what they have for stations and staff. Then look at the ISO rating for the city, and consider where it will go if the changes are implemented. Insurance Services Office (ISO) establishes ratings for Fire Departments, which insurance companies use to determine homeowner and business insurance rates. Dropping from a high of six Stations down to a level of three, and reducing staffing to levels that the city has embraced over the last several years, will have a direct impact on the city's rating. ISO looks at the number of Stations, locations (different for Engines and Ladders) and available personnel to respond to structure fires. Apparatus is looked at too. type and size of pump, maintenance and testing records. Then they look at the water distribution system and dispatch. It's obvious that the city's rating/s will be impacted negatively. They are looking at buying a new Aerial, with no pump. seems odd. The U of M always seems to play a role in the discussions. They own about 41% of the property in the city, and pay no taxes? The state has a formula they developed to provide funding to the city for fire protection, and it has never been funded at 100%. The list goes on...... Keep the stations open and hire adequate staff. Police and Fire are necessary for good quality of life in any given jurisdiction. If you don't think they are important, then re-consider why you buy insurance, If you're that confident you'll never need to call the Police or Fire Department, stop buying insurance...


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 8:41 p.m.

As I stated previously, the City is obligated under State Law to provide Fire Department services to the UofM.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 11:14 a.m.

The city administration has opted not to hire the fully budgeted complement of 82 firefighters, and currently employs only 76 firefighters. Despite this, the fire chief informs City Council that he requires 88 firefighters to have any possibility of meeting the national standards for fire response times established by the NFPA. A whistleblower from inside the Fire Department has informed me that the SAFER grant the city was awarded and is counting on to hire the additional six firefighters to get them to 88 may be lost because of an administrative snafu. A recent poll on [] asked the question, do you support the plan to close two [of the five] Ann Arbor fire stations? Of the 602 votes cast, 73% said no and only 27% supported the plan. Rather than studying this ill-advised plan further, City Council should direct the city administration to stop studying the plan, hire the firefighters already budgeted, add the $480,000 required to reach the 88 firefighters required, buy a replacement tower fire truck and expedite the repair of or replace the city's ladder truck. Most importantly, the fire chief has illegally ordered all firefighters not to talk to members of the press []. The executive director of the ACLU of Michigan assures me that if this illegal policy is not discontinued immediately that a lawsuit may ensue. It is truly appalling that the city is perpetrating and participating in an illegal coverup of the ongoing mismanagement causing the decline in fire safety in the city. City Council does nothing about it, and they are fully complicit in the errors that continue to be made. I outlined these facts in a speech to City Council on May 7, and since then, no steps have been taken to rescind the illegal gag order.

Stuart Brown

Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 5:42 a.m.

And your point is, Peregrine? Great way to point out the trivial at the expense of the profound! You must be comfortable with two more deaths per year from an underfunded fire department.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

Well said, Peregrine.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

First, the term "whistle-blower" is generally used to report illicit activity. Second, right now it's hearsay. The person you cite as a source should come forward and provide details. Third, a poll in is not scientific and should not be the basis of decisions that involve life and death. Careful analysis should be the basis of decisions, and Chief Hubbard provides it in his report: Fourth, for someone to "assure" you that a lawsuit "may ensue" is not much of an assurance at all, now is it? It's like someone assuring you that the check may be in the mail.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 10:48 a.m.

For those of you suggesting a paid on call force to supplement the firefighters it's a bad idea. It doesn't work. Pittsfield tried it and they have stopped. So has AA twp, Scio, Superior.... They are all going away from that plan cause it's unreliable and it just doesn't work.

Stuart Brown

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:18 a.m.

Hieftje is all ready on record saying he is comfortable with enough cuts to reduce response times to the point we can expect two more deaths every year from fire events. The study the city finally released showed the AAFD does not meet national standards for response times. What is interesting to me is that the Ann Arbor of 2000 that had less tax revnue in real terms could afford almost 120 fire fighters while the Ann Arbor of 2012 can only afford around 90; why? One way to deal with the current situation is to require UofM to go get their own Fire Department. Why the city does not pursue this option is a sign of poor leadership on the part of the current council.


Mon, Aug 6, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

Why not spend the cities money wisely rather than spending it on monuments.

Stuart Brown

Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 5:32 a.m.

Sparty, State Law? That has not stopped the city from violating State Law in regard to the proper way of posting local speed limits since 2006. Laws can be challenged in court(the way the city has challenged the State Speed Limit Laws) and there is significant legal precedent to argue that the city of Ann Arbor should not be responsible for protecting the assets of an entity that serves the entire state. The practical reality is that if the city said that after a certain date, the city would no longer respond to fire service calls from the UofM, the UofM would face the potential of years of litigation while there is no fire service.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

Because under STATE LAW, the City is responsible for providing UofM with Fire Department services. Just as every public university is provided with fire services in the communities they exist in, by State Law.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 10:02 p.m.

Suggestion- Close down city hall and reorganize them.


Mon, Aug 6, 2012 : 8:33 p.m.

Would you need to be organized to start in order to reorganize? City Hall, specifically, city coucil and the mayor need reprioritization.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 11:02 p.m.



Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 9:48 p.m.

Unfortunately this type of logic does not work in Ann Arbor. We gave away all of our money. Now we need to scrimp and scratch to make ends meet. Poor management! Poor planning! Poor actuarial estimates!


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

The citizens deserve the best services possible, and this plan will not do it! Yes you will have more firefighters concentrated to cover the U-M and downtown Ann Arbor, but you will increase the response times to both the west and east sides of town. And the last time I checked the residents and businesses in both the west and east sides pay the same amount is taxes! The proper way to provide the services needed is to maintain all stations open with 3 personnel on each truck and increase the staffing downtown to place the aerial tower in service, as it has not been staffed for over a year.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

It seems to me that the Chief and the NFPA are the experts vs the armchair individuals here offering their "armchair opinions". LoL.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

Peregrine there is much more to take in to account than statistics and NFPA reccomendations for "fires". The fire department does much more than fight fires. His plan is based on statistics of where the fires were for a certain number of years. What happens when those statistics shift to being more fires on the east side of the city? Close down one of these so called "superstations" and open up Station 4 and spend alot of money to open it up? There is plenty of work that 3 firefighters can do until the second crew gets there to attack the fire. Those stations were placed where they are for a reason, to serve the public's safety in the best way possible, that is the whole of the public not just a certain area.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

This is simply not true. If you read Chief Hubbard's report, the areas of the city where four firefighters will arrive within four minutes of turnout is significantly increased with the proposed 3-station plan. Right now, too much of the city requires teams from *two* separate fire stations before they'll have the four firefighters on the scene necessary to go into a building and save lives. Once the Stadium bridge is complete, the 3-station plan is obviously better. (Hire more firefighters and the equation changes.) Read the plan and study the maps in the report:


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

Two quick comments: 1. Has anyone done a "needs assessment" of the AAFD yet? 2. Has AAFD considered hiring some paid on-call firefighters to supplement the union guys during peak hours, special events, etc. - like Plymouth Township and many other departments have done? It's a new day (and a new economy) folks and everyone has to do the best they can with what they have. Just my $0.02


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 10:54 p.m.

It's a new day and economy yet the city continues to siphon tax dollars for their art projects.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 9:47 p.m.

Unfortunately this type of logic does not work in Ann Arbor. We gave away all of our money. Now we need to scrimp and scratch to make ends meet. Poor management! Poor planning! Poor actuarial estimates!


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 9:35 p.m.

Sailor 1. Yes it has been done and the latest study that cost the city 54K said leave the stations where there are and increase staffing 2. As for paid on call - yes it does work in some communities, but would be tough to do in AA, most persons do not move to the side or yield for the police, fire trucks or ambulances now, and if you add several paid on call personnel running their personnel vehicles with lights and sirens through this city, will only lead to increased accidents and more injuries.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 9:22 p.m.

It's so great to hear that everyone is listening to Fire Chief Chuck Hubbard! Fire Chief Chuck Hubbard's main stance is that the fire department is understaffed. It no longer meets fire industry benchmarks in several categories. When limbs are severed and lost, tourniquets are used as a life-saving technique. Hubbard's plan to maximize resources in fire-station closure is akin to tourniquet application. Fire Chief Hubbard would rather preserve the limbs of the fire stations, so the fire fighters are equipped to save our lives and limbs. Cut the folly, Heifjites, not the fire stations! Restore our safety services!


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

No question that if a station closes near your home, response time will decrease. A2 has to do everything possible to keep as many stations open as possible and I hope that is more than three.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

Mick, I think you meant increase.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

Why not have a VOLUNTEER Fire department to help out the Union Firemen? This is a good chance to get some citizen involvement.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 9:43 p.m.

We are a small town. I agree with XMO, why won't this work? My guess, we would have more volunteers than we could or would wish to add to such a response.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.

Because you never know if they will respond quickly or will respond at all.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 7:59 p.m.

That works great in small towns where the fire department gets a call once every week and a half. You won't be able to find volunteers who want to go out every single day. That's too big of a commitment for volunteers. You'd also have terrible response times as volunteer firemen try to fight traffic on Washtenaw Avenue to get to the station and then back again as they go to the fire.