In 24-Hour Period, Detroit Firefighters Fight 16 Fires, Receive 164 Layoff Notices

DETROIT, MI &#8211 The head of the city’s firefighters union this afternoon called Mayor Dave Bing’s plan to send pink slips to 164 firefighters “indefensible.”

“These cuts by the city will put its Fire Department and its residents at great risk — increasing response times and further taxing an already greatly reduced work force,” Dan McNamara, president of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association, said in a statement.

Earlier, Bing announced he was laying off 164 firefighters by July but that the city hopes to win a federal grant to rehire 108 of those positions.

In a statement, Bing also said he expects many of the remaining layoffs to be eventually rescinded through attrition.

“Since I became mayor, I’ve made public safety my top priority, and I’ve said I would protect the jobs of police and firefighters, but fiscal realities have made this untenable,” Bing said.

McNamara said if the cuts remain “there will be times when we won’t have the necessary resources to respond.”

Bing’s announcement comes just hours after firefighters fought about 16 fires on the city’s east side overnight and early morning. One firefighter was injured in one of the fires. Fires were reported in mostly vacant buildings in the areas of Moran and Medbury, Mt. Elliot and Warren, Hancock and McDougall, Erskine and Chene and Chene and Ferry.

The city’s 2012-13 budget, effective July 1, calls for $250 million in cuts from nearly every city department and slashes 2,600 jobs. It cuts the fire department’s budget about 13 percent, to about $160 million.

Until the Fire Department receives the grant, Bing said in the statement that Fire Commissioner Don Austin and his staff plan to maintain high levels of service by:

— Deploying engines from nearby fire stations when needed and using recently installed GPS systems in fire trucks to improve dispatch response.

— Conducting a thorough risk analysis of whether it’s better to fight fires from inside or outside a structure.

— Increasing the use of support personnel to help firefighters.

— Continuing community fire prevention education.

“Laying off any of our courageous and dedicated public safety personnel is the last thing I want to do at this point, but I have to face this hard reality,” Bing said.

McNamara said the city and the firefighters union sat down and worked out an agreement that would have kept the cuts to the city’s fire department at a minimum while keeping the city protested.

“However, at the last minute, they decided not to honor the deal — even though it had already been signed,” said McNamara.

The fire department has 1,257 employees, including 881 firefighters and 248 EMS technicians. According to the city, the department responds to 30,000 fire calls annually, plus 135,000 EMS calls.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Police Department’s largest union continues to fight proposed cuts to its ranks. The city’s 2012-13 budget calls for a $75 million cut to the police department, a reduction of about 18 percent.

Detroit Police Officers Association President Joe Duncan said Monday that an Ingham County Circuit Judge granted a temporary injunction preventing the city from voiding the union’s contract when it expires June 30.

“The city has said our contract will be done by June 30, and they’ll impose a new contract July 1,” Duncan said. “This restraining order will allow us to keep our contract intact until July 9; that’s when we’ll have a show cause hearing and hopefully get a permanent injunction.”

Ingham Circuit Judge Rosemary Aquilina granted the temporary injunction Monday, while Judge Paula J. M. Manderfield of the same court will preside over the July 9 show cause hearing.

Duncan said he’s in the dark about what concessions the city wants from police officers.

“I haven’t heard anything from the city. They hadn’t said what they’re trying to impose, whether it’s the 10 percent pay cuts (which the city had proposed months earlier), changes in health care — I have no idea. They haven’t shared that with me yet, and I don’t know if they’re going to.”

From The Detroit News.