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A breakdown on where the fires are fought

By Charles Sercombe
In a story in last week’s issue of The Review it was pointed out that we incorrectly reported that out of the Fire Department’s 800 service runs in 2017, most were in Detroit.
In an email last Friday, the day The Review is published, Fire Chief Dan Hagen asked for a correction. He also provided a breakdown of runs for 2017.
Sure enough, according to the statistics provided by Hagen, most of those 800 runs were indeed in Hamtramck.
So how did The Review get that wrong?
Look no further than a discussion Hagen had with the city council last July. During that conversation, the talk was about how many runs were made to Detroit in an expanded mutual aid agreement that the department had entered into several years ago.
The number 800 was talked about and City Councilmember Anam Miah picked up on that.
Here is how we reported that conversation between Hagen and Miah back in the July 6, 2018 issue of The Review:
“A couple of years ago the department entered into a unique agreement with Detroit and Highland Park to answer calls to those cities, but the range for mutual service was supposed to be limited to one mile from outside Hamtramck’s city limits. However, Hamtramck has been responding to calls in Detroit past that one-mile limit – up to three miles.
“In all there were over 800 runs in 2017, which Hagen admitted was ‘10 to 1’ in Detroit’s favor. That prompted Councilmember Anam Miah to comment, ‘That doesn’t sound like mutual aid to me.’
“Hagen conceded ‘it looks lopsided, and it is.’”
Hagen did not object to that report back in July.
Last week we asked Hagen to clarify that comment, and he pointed out he was referring to the actual number of mutual and automatic aid runs – not the overall number of service runs.
When you look at the stats Hagen talked about, that’s where the “10 to 1” reference comes into play.
According to the statistics, Hamtramck firefighters made 283 mutual and automatic aid runs to Detroit and 15 were made to Highland Park.
In return, Detroit assisted Hamtramck firefighters 23 times, and Highland Park came here six times.
What were the nature of those calls?
The department’s statistics do not provide that level of detail. But Hagen went through the department records and broke it down for The Review.
In 2017, the department reported 202 building fires. Hagen said Hamtramck had 27 fires, while Detroit accounted for 157 of the total number of fires Hamtramck firefighters responded to.
In Highland Park, we helped with 11 fires.
Hamtramck also responded to 31 false alarms in Detroit and one in Highland Park.
Finally, Hamtramck had 67 calls to Detroit cancelled while en route there, and three in Highland Park.
Building fire runs were the big-ticket item on the list of statistics for 2017.
Other runs ran the gamut of serious to mundane.
Here is a sample of some of those runs:
o Cooking fires – 77
o Vehicle fires – 17
o Dumpster or trash fires – 20
o Assist EMS crews – 16
o Gas leak (natural gas) – 15
o Power line down – 42
o Canceled calls – 80
o Good intent calls – 24
o False alarms – 68
o Smoke scare, odor of smoke – 12
o Service calls, other — 58

It should also be noted that we incorrectly reported the yearly cost of salaries for firefighters. We reported it was $2.3 million a year. That is wrong.
The true cost is about $1.1 million a year.
The $2.3 million figure was what the department received from a federal SAFER grant to subsidize firefighter salaries for the years 2018 and 2019.
It is not known if Hamtramck will continue to qualify for the grant, but if it does, the grant will no longer cover the full salaries of firefighters, but instead a decreased portion.
The city will have to begin to kick in paying for part of the salaries if the grant continues.
Eventually, the city will have to resume picking up the tab for salaries, and that is what city officials are trying to figure out how to budget in the coming years.
City Manager Kathy Angerer has said the department’s current cost to the city is “unsustainable.”

As for the errors in last week’s story, we regret any inconvenience it may have caused.

Dec. 14, 2018

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