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July 5, 2013

Warren hires seven Hazel Park firefighters

Commissioner says Fire Department should be at full strength by early August

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

WARREN —The Warren Fire Department should be fully staffed by the first Monday in August, Fire Commissioner Wilburt “Skip” McAdams said late last month.

That includes 18 new firefighters hired under a federal grant program, and an additional group of 10 new hires needed to flesh out a roster the city pledged to maintain when the voters passed a 4.9-mill tax increase in August 2012.

McAdams said seven of the new firefighters — hired under the city’s $2.79 million Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters grant awarded through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program — came to the city from neighboring Hazel Park.

“There is a hiring process that’s outlined in the (firefighters’) contract. We were able to create a letter of understanding on a one-time basis that allowed us to hire these seven employees who (were) employed by the city of Hazel Park that were facing layoffs July 1,” McAdams said. “We viewed it as an opportunity for the city to hire some employees who were already seasoned and trained, that had some experience in firefighting, to get them on duty working in Warren and to reduce some of these expenses we were incurring for overtime as a result of manpower shortages.”

Firefighters hired through the SAFER grant in Warren, including those hired from Hazel Park, make an entry-level wage of $32,000 annually. Those hired through the grant also join the Warren Fire Department with the understanding that their employment after the grant expires in two years is conditional upon either a grant renewal or an extension, or elevation in seniority that puts them within the 112 uniformed firefighters normally budgeted by the city.

McAdams said those hired under SAFER would move up in seniority as retirees leave the department over the next two years.

With the grant in place, McAdams said he expected the city would have 130 uniformed firefighter/paramedics by early August. He said the remaining 10 candidates were in the final stages of testing.

Warren had discussed a merger of emergency medical service operations with the Hazel Park Fire Department, but the deal failed to materialize. The cities also reportedly explored a full merger of fire departments.

McAdams and Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, however, said they remained interested in pursuing consolidation, even though a final deal could not be inked by the start of the new fiscal year July 1.

“We’re still going to be talking to our neighboring communities, and we’re still considering cooperative efforts with them,” Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klobucher said, adding that he was “grateful” Warren was able to hire firefighters Hazel Park would have been forced to lay off.

“Warren had openings, and the firefighters were able to go there,” Klobucher said.

McAdams said Warren’s total crop of 28 new firefighters, including the 18 hired through the SAFER program, would be spread across the department’s three 24-hour units and its six fire stations.

Seniority within the department for firefighters who begin work on the same day is determined by their performance on written and oral exams.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.