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Posted on Tue, May 4, 2010 : 4:02 a.m.

Ann Arbor firefighters organize protest in response to city's proposal to cut 20 positions

By Ryan J. Stanton


Firefighters picketed outside of the downtown fire station in protest of the city of Ann Arbor's proposal to eliminate 20 firefighters' jobs in July.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Matt Schroeder says a house fire on South State Street that killed a 22-year-old college student last month still haunts Ann Arbor firefighters.

"That fire has impacted a lot of us guys for the rest of our lives and we don't want to see that happen ever again," he said. "It impacted me to know that life is fragile and that we needed everybody on that scene."

About three dozen firefighters from Ann Arbor and other parts of the state picketed outside the downtown fire station on Monday, protesting pending layoffs in the Ann Arbor Fire Department.

The firefighters union hosted the informational picket to raise public awareness of the city's plans to potentially lay off 20 firefighters in July to help close a gap in the 2010-11 budget.

"We're out here today to try to let the citizens know what impact losing firefighters would have on the citizens and our ability to provide them with service," said Schroeder, union president. "We believe that the fire department's treated unfairly with us expected to take a 15 percent cut in our funding. And actually we're going to have a 22 percent loss in our ability to provide service."

The picket continued into Monday evening's Ann Arbor City Council meeting. Several firefighters made their way across the street to city hall to attend a public hearing on the city's 2010-11 budget where public safety was on the minds of many residents who spoke.

The council will vote on the budget on May 17, but it was announced Monday night that there may be amendments to save the jobs of police officers and firefighters.

Firefighters drove in from cities throughout the region to march in Monday's picket line. Some came from fire departments in Flint, Battle Creek, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Lincoln Park, Taylor, Ann Arbor Township and Ypsilanti.

Andre Doser and Shaun Kelly, both firefighters from Battle Creek, carried signs that read: "Support your firefighters. The life they save may be yours."

"We had nine guys laid off in our own city," Doser said. "We're actually two of the nine that were laid off and we just wanted to make sure that it doesn't happen to other cities. Since they laid off nine guys a week ago, they've had our truck out of service and it's kind of put us in a tight spot for commercial fires. It's just reduced the fire protection for our city."


Firefighters march up and down South Fifth Avenue in front of the downtown Ann Arbor fire station across the street from city hall.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"When we were out picketing, we had some other cities come out and support us, so we want to do the same to make sure that nobody has the same fate that we got in Battle Creek," Kelly said. "If this can help and maybe prevent that, that's why we're here."

Michael O'Hearon, an attorney who represents firefighters across the state of Michigan, criticized Ann Arbor city leaders.

"If I were on the City Council, I'd be kind of embarrassed that a city like Ann Arbor is closing fire stations and laying off firefighters while they're spending money on contractors to build up nice offices," he said. "The priorities certainly need to be readjusted."

Steven Heim, a firefighter from Lincoln Park, said there are talks of cutting firefighters in his city, too.

"We're out here to support our brothers," he said. "We understand their fight and are here to back them. We're facing the same thing from where we're at. The state's in hard time, so we've been faced with the same talk of cuts and reductions in manpower and the citizens need us more than ever."

Members of the IAFF Local 693 firefighters union in Ann Arbor say the proposed cuts to the fire department would reduce the ability to not only fight fires, but also provide other vital functions — such as protecting the environment from hazardous materials releases, protecting citizens from downed electrical lines during storms, rescuing canoeists from the river, and performing life-saving emergency medical services.

There currently are a minimum of 18 firefighters on duty across the city’s five stations. In addition to eliminating six firefighters from each shift, the department's only 95-foot ladder truck would come out of service, the union claims.

Support functions within the department also would be cut. The union claims the chief is planning to eliminate one of two assistant chief positions. They say he also is planning to eliminate the department’s only mechanic who, in addition to coordinating all testing and repairs on the department's vehicles, is responsible for repairing all portable equipment, coordinating maintenance and ensuring life safety equipment operates in compliance with state regulations.

National standards require that a fire department be capable of delivering 15 firefighters to a scene of a house fire within 8 minutes of being dispatched. A study conducted in 2008 revealed that the Ann Arbor Fire Department was capable of meeting that goal in only about 61 percent of the city, and only if all the trucks are in their stations and not out responding to other calls.

The firefighters union claims the map below shows that the department already is not meeting those safety goals in residential areas on the outskirts of the city with the current staffing.


Since 2002, seven citizens have died in fires in Ann Arbor. During the same time period, 13 more people have been rescued from their homes by firefighters, and 10 more citizens have had to jump from roofs and windows before any firefighters could get to them.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Fri, May 7, 2010 : 10:29 a.m.

@aataxpayer: No, that's not necessarily true. It does take 16 to conduct full operations at a fire scene. I won't go into the rolls unless you request, but yes, it does take that many. As for going in to do a rescue. The number that's used is 4. But even that is misleading. It takes 2 firefighters to enter the structure, and two have to be outside on standby in case those original two get into trouble, or find the victim, but run out of air and have to get out, then the next two can bee-line directly to the victim and get them out. I say misleading because there's a 5th that actually runs the engine to make sure the hose lines always have water. The issue is that Ann Arbor typically runs with only 3 firefighters on a truck, despite what your 'trusted' city leaders tell you. So when a station in your area get closed... I'm sorry, 'browned out' and you have a fire, once the 5 arrive, the will rush into the house and conduct a search. The issue is whether or not you're in the area that has a closed station. Now you have trucks coming from further away. Some would like to call that scare tactics. It's just telling you the truth. Sure, it's scary, but I'm getting sick of the bloggers telling us it's 'scare tactics' every time we try to educate with facts rather than uninformed blogger opinions. Keep in mind, firefighting is a risky job, we know that. But firefighters don't take BLIND risks. They're calculated risks. Just as a cop will do something dangerous knowing that he/she has backup there. Similar with firefighting. A burning structure will be entered as soon as the firefighters know backup is there to bail them out if things turn south quickly. It can be argued that no matter how many get cut, the trucks will still show up to your house. That's a given. Even as mad at the city as the FD is, there's a commitment to do the job. That will never change. What does become a problem is where that truck is coming from to arrive at your home, and with how many people on it. All those fancy red trucks with all the cool equipment doesn't save lives. It's the people ON those truck that do.


Thu, May 6, 2010 : 8:33 a.m.

@skotsky Ann Arbor has 2 ladder trucks one downtown and one up on the north side of the city. The station that closed would have been further away than the trucks coming from downtown, so no it would not have made a difference on the state street fire....


Tue, May 4, 2010 : 3:14 p.m.

@Marilee. Visit!/group.php?gid=164121625101 under discussions and it answers your question. If that link doesn't work, look under Facebook for "Support the Ann Arbor Fire Department" Under the discussion tab you can find answers to anything related to the FD by REAL firefighters, not bloggers that only provide opinions.

marilee sturtevant

Tue, May 4, 2010 : 2:03 p.m.

i have always wondered why the fire trucks go out on all ambulance calls? i can understand if there is a fire or could be one, but it seems like the fire trucks and men by not going out all the time, could save money.


Tue, May 4, 2010 : 1:14 p.m.

I don't live in A2 but with the closing of the E. Stadium/Packard location I wonder if things would have been different for the recent death of a 22yr old on State St. or, the fire at an Apartment complex on State near Eisenhower. The time it takes for the downtown station to lumber through downtown streets and respond to fire where additional equipment is needed is unacceptable. A2 has one ladder truck? For a city of A2 size that's ridiculous. The recent Thompson block fire there were two ladder trucks. (None were Ypsi's, there brand new ladder truck was out of service) How about eliminating a few council members? Just for a start.


Tue, May 4, 2010 : 11:27 a.m.

@Mr Firefighter AAFD has more than enough FF's to fight a house fire according to your statistics you need 15 in 8 mins, doesnt AAFD send 19 or more to a house fire??? Also I wouldnt worry to much about AAFD over utilizing the surrounding depts, there are not enough fires in the city to warrant that. Beside the other depts are more than happy to come fight fires in A2 and any other place. @Zags If the city suddenly comes up with money to save jobs, AAFD should get back the 4% pay cut they took, because that means the money was there all along and the pay cut was not necessary!!!!!


Tue, May 4, 2010 : 11:17 a.m.

@ Andrew Your right the last time I saw a fire it looked as if the FF's were at a picnic. There were several FF's standing around laughing and talking while a the others were inside working. This was about a month ago on the far west side. They want us to believe they are short staffed when just the opposite is true. In response to the FF union about fire deaths since 2002 I bet non of those were due to a lack of FF at the scene in a timely manner, this is just another of your scare tactics, if Im wrong prove it!!! @ Belboz Research has shown that over 65% of AAFD calls are EMS related and only approx 10% are fire related. Is the FD duplicating EMS services to make it appear they are busy and need more people? Per some HVA medics they usually get to the calls first and cancel the FD. ON occassion the FD is needed to assist them and on those occassions they call for and utilize them.


Tue, May 4, 2010 : 10:32 a.m.

In cities across Michigan Fire Fighters and Police Officers have been, will be, are being laid off. It looks like council member Teall has a solution that will avoid this in Ann Arbor. In the worst economy since the great depression, Ann Arbor is moving on and staying way ahead of other cities.


Tue, May 4, 2010 : 8:42 a.m.

Look, these men and women are here to save our lives. Why should we cut back on something so important. This is crazy the choice is obvious, but the question is do we see it?


Tue, May 4, 2010 : 7:30 a.m.

To all of you who are complaining about the number of calls the AAFD (Ann Arbor Fire Department) respond to, I say this. If it was your house or your family member who needed assistance, you would be most appreciative of the fact that the AAFD are usually the first responders. AAFD did take a pay cut so that no one would be laid off but the city responded with wishing to lay off 20 instead of 14. Every time there is a shortage of funds, the city wishes to lay off our "Men and Women in Blue" - Ann Arbor Fire Department and Ann Arbor Police Department. I believe they do this as a scare tactic so they can get folks to agree to pay more taxes which they (the city managers) would waste on other projects anyways. To the Fire Fighters and Police Office, my very best wishes to you who do a great job protecting our great city. You all definitely have my support.

Blue Eyes

Tue, May 4, 2010 : 7:26 a.m.

...and while not out fighting fires, it was the Fire Dept who had to strap on air packs to enter a City Hall filled with lethal levels of carbon monoxide to be sure that all employees were able to make it out of the building safely. Every City Hall employee should be thanking the firefighters and asking City administration how many more times they'll risk employees' safety before the Taj Mahal is complete? Guess parkland is more important to City admin than even it's own employees' safety, let alone that of the public!

Edward R. Murrow's ghost

Tue, May 4, 2010 : 7:14 a.m.

Youwhine: You obviously confuse some people on this blog with being well-informed, level-headed, reasonable people who are prepared to find reasonable solutions to complex problems rather than angrily bark at the moon while bashing every union that ever existed.


Tue, May 4, 2010 : 5:18 a.m.

It never ceases to amaze me how spending on offices and crap like that is a must. But when push comes to shove, firefighters and police are first on the list of cuts. I bet they will regret that if they need either one of the services provided by these very brave and hard working men and women in either of the fields I just listed. I wish them all the best in getting the funding that they need. Apparently the taxes we all pay are not enough for them to filch before paying the real backbone of the community.


Tue, May 4, 2010 : 4:56 a.m.

@Zags. We actually did already. Just a few short months ago the Mayor asked for a 3% pay cut from us. We gave 4%. The very next week after the agreement was signed Fraser announced he was going to layoff 20 firefighters instead of 14. That was in January. We understand times are tight but when the City negotiates like that it makes it very hard to even talk about anymore pay cuts.


Tue, May 4, 2010 : 12:46 a.m.

I had a chimney fire some years ago, and the FD was at my house VERY fast. I have no idea if the fire would have burned itself out or exploded into my rafters, and I'm glad I will never find out. They earned every penny of their salary that day. They took care of the problem with zero property damage. I hope they get to keep their jobs.


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 11:26 p.m.

and the AAFD Union will not take a pay cut to save their members jobs because.........?


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 11:17 p.m.

Sorry to ALL firefighters for such negative comments. Unless you've lived with or have been a firefighter, you don't get it! Now, since comments have been re-directed from the awful Ann Arbor teachers to the awful Ann Arbor firefighters, look out Ann Arbor police officers. You're probably next. It's a sad time...


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 11:16 p.m.

@stunhsif: You DO know that AAPD stands for Ann Arbor Police Department, right? Where do you come up with the stat that 85% of their runs are car accidents? Please enlightenmen me as to how it will work out when you send an AMBULANCE (HVA) to a home invasion, bank robbery, or shoplifting call.


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 10:45 p.m.

right decision at the right time. The Huron Valley Ambulance Company cost structure is about 40% of what the AAPD is. Let's fire all the AAPD and dump their high cost gold plated union pay and pension and turn it over to the Huron Valley Ambulance Company since 85% of what the AAPD does is car accident runs. This is insane money to spend for less than one fire run per day for all of AAPD. City Councild no matter how stupid would not cut 20 positions if it was not well justified. If AAPD does not like it, then come to the table to offset those jobs with cost cutting???? I already hear nothing but silence. Just like the SEA and the AAEU, they would rather let their lower seniority folks crash and burn!! Good Day!


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 10:34 p.m.

Well, here is a link for those who don't believe the misinformation published by the Fire Department. It is simple math to most. Everyone can have their own opinion, but everyone cannot have their own facts.


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 10:09 p.m.

Hey Ann Arbor preferred to spend its money on buying development rights in the Townships (the Townships thank you Ann Arbor taxpayer), a brand spankin' new City monolith-hall, and all those artsy art purchases. You get what you elect. Enjoy Ann Arbor liberals!!!


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 9:25 p.m.

city council has no business making even more cuts to essential safety services like fire and police. i wonder where the savings will go? maybe for yet ANOTHER park or better still a private bike lane for mayor hieftje?


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 9:24 p.m.

Hey Andrew... strap on a pak and crawl into the smoke filled stranger's house hoping that they have already made it out alive, THEN think about how you and your crew are getting out. They may not make high rise rescues everyday like a major city fire dept. But you only have to touch one person's life to realize why you do this job. Is it safe to assume that you would be willing to put your home address on the perverbial list of "does not need fire response" but is still willing to blindly pay taxes...?


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 9:08 p.m.

It is a waste of time to be here and responding to anything has to offer. Thanks for the lesson in futilty,

Steven Harper Piziks

Mon, May 3, 2010 : 9:02 p.m.

Firefighters respond to EMS calls because a firetruck can often get to the scene faster than an ambulance (since fire stations are scattered about the city and not centralized as much as ambulance stations), and firefighters are all trained EMS responders. Laying off firefighters is like laying off ambulance drivers and paramedics. Everyone figures we can do without firefighters and they wonder why we pay them to sit around and wait all day and can't we reduce their numbers? They figure we can lay off a bunch. Until their house catches fire. Then it's too late.


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 9:02 p.m.

The lame commentary in support of keeping redundant Ann Arbor fire fighters misses the point entirely. If we have 20 too many, what is the reason to keep them on the payroll? If the same job can be done with 20 less, why to have 20 useless bodies, if not minds on the payroll?


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 8:49 p.m.

I must agree that many people in many areas of work have been hurt financially by the current economic situation... but, the reality is that this city has been adversely affected by a truely "weak mayor" and his lame duck council. The firefighters of AA (even the ones who face pink slips) are working everyday to do the best job that they can. 10 years ago an average housefire left the furthest station available to run calls, currently that same fire uses every rig in the city. Anything bigger and outside departments are needed. With the proposed cuts they will need to call outside departments for even average house fires. This may sound simple to most, but the others will eventually get tired of supplementing AA just because they can't seem to balance their social/political desires and the needs of the citizens. Keep in mind that no matter how many FF's and cops get cut, the tax bill will not. So live with great care since 911 might be too busy but the parking lots will be open.


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 8:21 p.m.

Each and every Job is important. You seem to think your jobs are so important we must keep paying wages you demand even if our jobs are lost or we made concessions.What is happeningis a sign of the times people. I dont have a job yet my city thinks I should dig in and keep your job????? Welcome to reality


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 8:13 p.m.

i totally agree...we should not fire any firefighters. now to accomplish this, its simply a matter of the city services including fire get rid of the union and this would free up millions upon millions of savings for the firefighters to keep their jobs and save us from fires.


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 7:30 p.m.

Yes, a Fire Department is needed. But, they have responded to 49 fire related calls up to March 15. That is less than 0.7 fire related calls per day. It seems that more responsibility has been taken on over the years to fill the void of minimal fire related calls. Perhaps we should start to examine why the department has to respond to EMS type calls, as well as the Other category. Are these critical needs from a Fire Department, or just things to do because they are not doing something else. I agree the city has been very poor at managing money, but I also think the Fire Department can do some work re-defining priorities if staff reductions require it.


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 7:23 p.m.

I am curious to know what our Ann Abor firefighters make, and how many are there to begin with. Do we need more than one pump to deal with a small fire? Ann Arbor is not exactly a Chicago of 1800's. Granted it makes for a good show to see many fire trucks congregate, and make all our fireboys happy and excited to have something to do once in a while.


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 6:57 p.m.

seems to me, this is one of the services that are a NEED, not a WANT. and we NEED to do every damn thing possible to make sure we keep these folks employeed. all of them.

Steven Harper Piziks

Mon, May 3, 2010 : 6:13 p.m.

We need to raise more revenue to keep them.

Susan Montgomery

Mon, May 3, 2010 : 6:06 p.m.

These great firefighters just over a week ago prevented a house fire from spreading to other houses in our neighborhood, as they have done at least two other times in the 16 years I have lived in this neighborhood. It might be easy for some in City Council to see it as just another budget item, but they should show more appreciation and respect for these men and women who are willing to risk their lives for us. These firefighters were willing to work in good faith to make concessions to try to prevent job losses only to be told there would be cuts anyway, and now this?