Does cutting firefighters lead to more deaths, or not?

AnnArbor.com has an interesting story today about how budget cuts affecting the Ann Arbor Fire Department might be responsible for the increasing number of deaths by fire in the city. Here’s a clip.

The president of the Ann Arbor firefighters union told Mayor John Hieftje and the City Council Monday night he believes deep cuts to the fire department over the last several years have led to an increase in response times on fires — and subsequently, a higher fatality rate.

“In the last decade, while the city eliminated a fire station, 37 firefighters, and shut down two fire trucks, our average response time has risen,” Matt Schroeder said during a public hearing on the city budget, decrying the proposed elimination of 12 more firefighter positions.

“You cannot say that response times will not be affected. They are affected. They continue to worsen with your rotating station closures, and they will get worse if you cut more people.”

The rotating station closures Schroeder referred to are a result of a new practice the city began in mid-February of closing one of the city’s five fire stations on a rotating basis to curtail costs. Each month a different station is assigned to be closed and property owners receive service from the next closest open fire station.

Schroeder said city administrators have referenced their own data as a guise for further cuts, but they haven’t shared with the public the “real data.”

“In the last 20 years, 15 citizens lost their lives to fires in Ann Arbor. From 1991 through 2005, in 14 years, three people were killed by fire, or an average of 0.2 lives per year,” Schroeder said. “But since 2006, in six years, 12 people were killed, or an average of two lives per year.”

Going from 0.2 lives per year to 2 lives per year is a significant increase, Schroeder said, and it coincides with a 29 percent reduction in the number of firefighters on the job…

Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? But, if you can believe it, people in Ann Arbor are coming out against the fire fighters. Following are two comments left by AnnArbor.com readers. The first is from someone calling himself sailor67. Here it is.

First of all, 15 fire fatalities in the past 20 years is nowhere near enough empiracle evidence to draw any sort of statistical conclusions – especially the one’s that Matt Schroeder is making. Isn’t it strange that the IAFF (International Association of Firefighters) has always used NFPA (National Fire Prevention Association) standards and guidelines to promote their agenda, but has continually chosen to ignore large-scale NFPA studies that fail to show a causal relationship between “manning” (as it relates to response times) and fire fatalities – except in rural settings and wildfire scenarios. While I admire Mr. Schroeder’s efforts to represent the members of his local, his sampling is just too small to draw any defendable conclusions.

I would also like to remind Mr. Schroeder that (both) the IAFF and the NFPA have established a direct correlation between operational efficiency and firefighter health & safety. So I think Mr. Schroeder and his membership would be well-served by; accepting the realities of today’s economy, realizing that they’re going to be doing “more with less”, enhancing their relationship with WAMAA, amending their operational SOPs to reflect more defensive strategies, and focusing their efforts on equipment, training and the establishment of a quality wellness program.

In summary, I wish you all well and to stay safe.

Have you got that? More deaths does not mean that we have too few fire fighters. It means that the few fire fighters that we do have aren’t efficient enough… And here’s a comment left by someone calling himself Fred Gilbert.

If you check the facts, the city administrators budget presentation on line, you see that police and fire have grown from 40% to 52% of the budget in just 10 years. Other areas have been cut. The city is prioritizing police and fire.

Fire departments across the state are being cut. Something like 2500 laid off. Wasn’t it Jackson that closed 2 of their 3 fire stations a few months ago. Stations are closing throughout the state and nation. I think they closed another one a few years before that.

The old fountain again, fact is articles here have shown that none of the art money could be spent on FF’s. The “buckets” governments have to work with are real.

The AAFF union could save half of the positions up for layoff by just paying the same for their health care as other city employees. When they step up to the plate to help the city in the toughest of all times, I will vote for a new millage.

I respect the fact the A2 is one of the few cities that has not raised taxes in many years. They need to stay the course and not be intimidated by union scare tactics.

Do you believe this shit? What the fuck kind of society are we living in? It is really that important to us that the top %1 pay as little as possible in taxes? Are we really willing to die so that they can keep that little bit more?

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13 Comments

  1. Boy O Boy
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Here I give you a quote from the Ann Arbor “news” on three of those fatalities

    “”People were calling into 911 and not giving complete addresses from where they were calling from,” he said.

    Firefighters aim to make it to a scene in four minutes or less, he said. Asked whether arriving minutes earlier would have made a difference, Dziubinski said, “I don’t think so.””

    If residents report the fire they have already escaped. If passerbys report it the residents fate has been set. I would like the “union president” to give the response time to those fatalaties and point to one that would have been diverted by response time.

    Read about all the fatalities and you will find that smoke detectors save lives. Fire fighters reduce property damage.

  2. Boy O Boy
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    You will also see that sailor67 tops the list with 353 votes for best comment. If only the silent readers of this blog could vote but better yet they should speak!

  3. Glen S.
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Because of better building and electrical codes, prevalence of smoke detectors, etc., there are generally fewer fires, and fewer deaths from fires, than there were in past decades. This seems to have led many people to think that firefighters are less important, and perhaps more expendable — especially in an era of falling tax revenues. and shrinking budgets.

    However, there is no guarantee that we can’t have more fires, or more serious fires — especially considering the number of large multi-unit residences, such as dorms, in our area. Or, for that matter, a major toxic spill, plane crash, etc. Can you imagine the second-guessing and hand-wringing that would follow an incident in which there were multiple deaths or even serious injuries following a fire or other major incident that went out of control because we didn’t have adequate fire or other public safety personnel? Are we really prepared to take that risk?

    Here’s the bottom line: With major corporations sitting on more cash than ever before in their history, Governor Snyder has proposed giving his corporate buddies an additional, $1.8 Billion tax cut (with no strings, or guarantees that it will actually help our economy or create jobs) — while paying for it with cuts to local communities that will force many to make even deeper cuts to public safety.

  4. JSam
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I think even AA.com knows that A2 City Hall administrators have plants that post and then they have employees assigned to vote for them all day.
    They amass huge voting numbers (just remove cookies and click the vote button all day) that totally disagree with the vast majority of posters. Yet Ann Arbor.com doesn’t seem to “get it”? Sure, right.
    A2.com claims to be able to tell when a political figure posts using another name. Ha!
    This is the 3rd time when a city “union” type article appears a new fake name is created “Fred Gilbert” this time….just for this one purpose and then the user ID is dumped and another one created for the next article.

    It’s a game the city admins are playing on the taxpayer’s dime.

  5. John Galt
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I think this has less to do with our lazy, shiftless fire fighters than it does the class of people who are dying in fires. My guess is that they’re primarily poor people, living in multi-unit rental properties. As they don’t contribute much, I really don’t see a problem with trimming some more of the fire fighter fat. Once important people start dying, let me know. In the meantime, maybe we could distribute pamphlets to the poor telling them not to start grease fires. For the price of one fire fighter, we could print thousands.

  6. Posted May 4, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    @ Boy:

    Dziubinksi’s comment shouldn’t be taken out of context. He is not going to go on the record and tell a reporter that the fire department could have done more to save the victims lives. That would be tantamount to an admission of culpability and could be used against the fire department in a lawsuit brought by the victim’s families.

    What proof do you have regarding your statement that “If residents report the fire they have already escaped. If passerbys report it the residents fate has been set”? Your sweeping generalization is frankly ridiculous.

    A decrease in the number of firefighters negatively affects their ability to fight fires and save lives. I point you to an April 2010 study published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which attempted to quantify the effect of crew size and response time on the effectuality of a real fire department. This study showed that a four person crew delivered water 16 percent faster than a two-person crew and 6 percent faster than three person crews, and were able to complete their tasks, such as rescuing people, 5.1 percent faster than three-person crews and 30 percent faster than two-person crews. Please see the link to the report above.

  7. Brainless
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Can someone who’s less lazy than I research this quote:

    “If you check the facts, the city administrators budget presentation on line, you see that police and fire have grown from 40% to 52% of the budget in just 10 years. Other areas have been cut. The city is prioritizing police and fire.”

    If this is true, doesn’t it merit some attention? Is the city, in fact, prioritizing fire protection as best it can?

  8. JSam
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Brainless,
    You would have to know for instance that parking people are added to the police budget. Parking is GIANT revenue for AA as we all know. Parking enforcement, and the entire Community Standards dept (zoning enforcement etc) was moved to AAPD budget. I can’t tell you what has been moved to AAFD…..but I do know the Community Standards story firsthand.
    It’s all the shell game.

  9. Ted
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    The last time I called the fire department in Ann Arbor, they all showed up in fur coats, and they refused to help me because they said it would ruin their manicures.

    Oh, and they were lighting cigars with $100 bills.

  10. wobblie
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I live around the corner from Paradise Manor, where a fire a fire three (?) years ago killed two young children. I smelled smoke and followed my nose to the fire, arriving as YFD arrived. The mother came running up to them yelling that her children were inside the burning building. She was told they had too few fighters to safely enter the front-which was burning, they raced around to the back-which had no entrance-when YTFD arrived (3-5 min. later) as back-up they attempted to enter the front, but the flames were too big by then. —It is not only response time–it is also adequate staffing-they sere short one fighter. These deaths would never have happened prior to the Bush tax cuts and the reductions in the size of our dept.

  11. elviscostello
    Posted May 5, 2011 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    OK, as one of those lazy, shiftless ex-firefighters, I’d like to weigh in…If you recall, there was a fire on Nash Street as few years ago. The YTFD showed up, and saved lives by making entry and pushing unconcious folks through the window of the bedroom, just before the room flashed over. We had fires at Tuscan Creek, where the YTFD saved lives by laddering the building and getting residents out the windows. We had a storm blow over Ford Lake, lift a roof from Lake in the Woods, and we had to search the building for injured residents, one of which was an elderly lady with a broken hip. We have gone on runs with people pinned in cars, where two firefighters won’t do the job, where the roof must be cut off, and the folks inside removed SAFELY without more damage to their bodies. What the hell, we don’t need firefighters on duty at all…Just make sure you have smoke detectors, an ample supply of water, a set of JAWS of Life, a defibrilator, a haz-mat kit, lock-out tools, fire hose, a chemical extinguisher for electrical fires, traction splints, oxygen and airways, and the knowledge to use all of them… Piece of cake.
    BTW, Boyoboy, Smoke detectors do save lives, and SO DO FIREFIGHTERS when the smoke detectors don’t work or when the person needs CPR and an AED…I know, I’ve been there.

  12. Glen S.
    Posted May 5, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    @ elviscostello.

    Thank you!

  13. Edward
    Posted May 5, 2011 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Is Wobblie’s comment true about the fire fighters on the scene not being able to go into Paradise Manor and save those two kids?

    I live around the corner from Paradise Manor, where a fire a fire three (?) years ago killed two young children. I smelled smoke and followed my nose to the fire, arriving as YFD arrived. The mother came running up to them yelling that her children were inside the burning building. She was told they had too few fighters to safely enter the front-which was burning, they raced around to the back-which had no entrance-when YTFD arrived (3-5 min. later) as back-up they attempted to enter the front, but the flames were too big by then. —It is not only response time–it is also adequate staffing-they sere short one fighter. These deaths would never have happened prior to the Bush tax cuts and the reductions in the size of our dept.

    I’d like to know if those kids really died because we have insufficient staffing.

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