OPINION: Elimination of tower fire truck on regular basis puts Ann Arbor community at risk
As the president of the Ann Arbor Firefighters, I am writing this missive on behalf of our members to share our concerns regarding the city of Ann Arbor’s decision to shut down the city’s tower truck in the face of city budget cuts.
This truck company, operating out of the downtown station, now sits idle on most days. It is an advanced piece of equipment that is used to fight fires and rescue individuals safely and efficiently in a timely manner.
Without the tower in service, Ann Arbor firefighters are unable to provide for citizen safety in a manner in which our community has come to expect. City officials have chosen to compromise our ability to act when the tower is desperately needed to save lives, and protect our own during an emergency.
While it is still possible to access the tower in the event of a crisis, firefighters must undergo specialized training to operate this truck. And the time it takes a certified firefighter and his company to journey to the tower station, activate the truck, and drive it to the scene of a fire can last nearly 30 minutes or more -- a lifetime when a fire is consuming a structure and taking lives.
Mutual aid from surrounding departments that have a tower truck do not place the apparatus on scene in time for initial actions making it a less viable option with similar time delays.
The loss of the tower and another fire company in the downtown area severely hampers our ability to act in a manner consistent with accepted practices and national standards.
The loss of this company turns the Ann Arbor Fire Department into a purely defensive department because of the time elements it takes to put the tower into service when it is not staffed properly.
When city residents pay higher taxes than surrounding communities, they rightly should expect the best public services money can buy. The uniqueness of the tower and its ability to save lives is a level of excellence the city of Ann Arbor routinely demands.
We are calling on members of the City Council and the Ann Arbor mayor to reconsider their decision to close the tower station. While Ann Arbor firefighters clearly understand that our challenging and fragile economy makes budgetary decisions difficult, those decisions should never come at the expense of public safety within our community.
We are always willing to work within the confines of the city’s expenses to find efficiencies in our departmental operations, but the decision to close the tower truck represents a fundamental risk to the citizens of Ann Arbor. Our city deserves nothing less than the best fire coverage we as a department can provide; that fire coverage only remains superior if the tower remains in full-time operation.
Matt Schroeder is president of the Ann Arbor Firefighters Local 693, the union representing the city’s firefighters.