Farmington Hills Fire Station 3 is set to be in operation 24/7 beginning later this year.

Farmington Hills Fire Station 3 is set to be in operation 24/7 beginning later this year.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Farmington Hills approves additional firefighters

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published July 24, 2023


FARMINGTON HILLS — Of the five fire stations in Farmington Hills, four operate 24/7, with one of them, Station 3, not in operation from midnight until 7:30 a.m. on a daily basis.

That is set to change later this year.

“At our budget meeting with City Council earlier this spring, we had a conversation regarding, maybe one of the deficiencies in the department, and that is the browning out or closing of fire Station 3 at Grand River and Middlebelt from midnight until 7:30 a.m. every day,” said Farmington Hills Fire Chief Jon Unruh. “And City Council thought that was a big priority, a large priority for this coming year, and they went ahead and funded eight additional firefighters to make sure that fire station’s open 24/7 to give the best service possible to that corner of the city. … This is our last station to be open 24/7.”

Unruh explained where things are at in the process.

“We’ve gone ahead and (started) to search out and hire those eight new firefighters,” he said. “That’ll probably take a few months to find the right group, and we’ll go ahead and probably by late fourth quarter have that station open 24/7. … We’ll disperse the new firefighters so that they’re all not new firefighters in that area, but you’ll have a mix of new and veterans at that station.”

Firefighters in Farmington Hills do more than just extinguish fires.

“(About) 74-ish, 75-ish percent of what they do is EMS, and, obviously, that’s a critical functionality,” said Farmington Hills Council member Ken Massey. “About 153 fires last year was in the annual report. That’s a pretty busy schedule for our department.”

Unruh estimated that Station 3 has been operating at its current hours since the early 2000s.

“We didn’t have enough full-time firefighters to keep it open 24/7,” Massey said. “That station makes a little bit of sense if you’re (going to) have to close one, because it is the closest to the hospital. Other EMS calls will have vehicles going back and forth through that section, so it didn’t really compromise response times too badly.”

Massey made the proposal to add eight additional firefighters/paramedics, with the other members of City Council unanimously approving it.

He estimated that it will cost between $700,000 and $800,000 per year, with “no tax increases whatsoever.”

“We were able to do that by ensuring that we move money, looking at what we charge for an EMS call, and realizing that our fee schedule to insurance companies and Medicare — we were leaving money on the table,” Massey said. “They are willing to pay probably about $400 for a call more than what we were charging, so we increased the fee schedule. … We increased the costs to the insurance companies, and citizens won’t see that difference, because we don’t bill them directly. We bill their insurance companies. … By doing that, with the number of calls, the call volume that we have, we were able to find the $700,000.”

When it comes to providing emergency services, Massey has a unique perspective.

“I had that experience for a decade,” he said. “I was a paramedic. I understand the importance of the rapid, professional response vehicles that take care of our citizens. … I want to be proactive, and that’s why I felt it was very important that we bring it up and we do it this year.”

Massey said he understands the benefit of having five fire stations that are open 24/7 in Farmington Hills.

“Bottom line, it is health, safety, welfare, and we had the means to do it, so we took that action,” he said. “We’re constantly looking for ways to ensure that our community is safer.”

Unruh expressed gratitude for the chance to expand the city’s emergency services.

“A big thank you to City Council for recognizing a small gap in our delivery service,” he said. “A big thank you for funding the additional firefighters so that we can provide 100% service.”