Fire service agreement turns 20 in Greater West Bloomfield

Retiring fire board commissioner reflects on changes

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published August 4, 2023

 After deciding to resign from the Tri-City Fire Board, Chairman Dave Boerger received a plaque for his years of service on the board at a meeting July 25.

After deciding to resign from the Tri-City Fire Board, Chairman Dave Boerger received a plaque for his years of service on the board at a meeting July 25.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


GREATER WEST BLOOMFIELD — More than 20 years have passed since a potentially life-saving decision was made.

In years past, fire services in Orchard Lake, Keego Harbor and Sylvan Lake were handled by volunteers.

West Bloomfield, on the other hand, had fire stations that were staffed 24/7 by professional firefighters/paramedics.

An idea that would allow Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake and Sylvan Lake to utilize the services of the West Bloomfield Fire Department was formulated more than two decades ago, and an agreement was eventually reached between the cities and West Bloomfield.

The Tri-City Fire Board consists of commissioners who represent Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake and Sylvan Lake. It existed prior to the agreement with West Bloomfield and still does to this day.

Richard Eriksen, of Sylvan Lake; Dave Boerger, of Orchard Lake; and Sharon Horger, of Keego, were part of the early stages of the merger process between the cities and the West Bloomfield Fire Department.

Boerger recently decided to resign from the board, and his timing is fitting.

“July 1 was the 20th anniversary of the arrangement with West Bloomfield to provide fire/EMS services to the three cities,” Boerger said. “We were looking to improve the fire and EMS services through the response times, as well as, especially, the medical services. The volunteer group could only provide basic medicines, whereas the West Bloomfield EMS are fully trained paramedics that can deliver medicine on the way to the hospital, for example. So that was a big upgrade that we wanted and were able to get.”

Prior to the agreement with West Bloomfield, Boerger said that the response times were 10-15 minutes, as opposed to now being less than four minutes.

Eriksen considers being a part of the merger between the cities and the West Bloomfield Fire Department one of the “finest things” that he, Boerger and Horger have done in their roles as commissioners, and he shared an example of how beneficial that partnership has turned out to be.

“The biggest factor that drove it to begin with was the fact that West Bloomfield had a very high-class EMS system, and our whole fire department was volunteer,” Eriksen said. “The other part was their tremendous ability to show up with equipment. We had one fire here in Sylvan Lake that, if we hadn’t been merged with West Bloomfield at the time, it would’ve taken at least two or three houses right there on the lakefront, down by the boat club.”

Although the West Bloomfield Fire Department had more resources to work with, the services provided by the previous group of volunteers has not been forgotten.

“With the volunteers, they were unpaid and they had to come to the station on the calls,” Horger said. “They did a great job … but it’s just different when you have four people that are there at the station and a call comes in — they’re out the door immediately. So I think that has been a big plus.”

Orchard Lake City Services Director Gerry McCallum said that the level of safety has increased dramatically since the agreement with West Bloomfield. He provided details of how the arrangement works.

“We get charged by (the) West Bloomfield Fire Department, per this agreement,” McCallum said. “Each community is one-third share of the total, and we are billed quarterly on that.”

McCallum said that each of the tri-city communities is paying $355,000 to West Bloomfield this fiscal year, with Orchard Lake’s expense incurred through the city’s general fund. He estimated that it would cost “well above a million dollars a year” if Orchard Lake operated its own fire/EMS services.

There are five fire stations in West Bloomfield and one in Orchard Lake.

The station in Orchard Lake, which is on Orchard Lake Road, existed prior to the agreement with West Bloomfield.

“Part of the agreement, also, which Dave was instrumental, I think, working out, was the fact that station nine, which is in our jurisdiction but served the tri-cities when we had the volunteer fire department, that became a station West Bloomfield uses for the north end of, like, West Bloomfield Township,” McCallum said. “I think the issue was that West Bloomfield was looking to build a fire station at the northeast quadrant of their township for better service. It just so happened that a station generally in that area worked out, to where they took over that station, as far as running it, and I think we lease it to them for a dollar a year. That was all part of the agreement worked out through Dave Boerger and representatives at that time.”

From April 1 to June 30 this year, as part of West Bloomfield Fire Chief Greg Flynn’s quarterly report of “Incidents by Station for City,” it was reported that there were 88 incidents in Keego, 57 in Orchard Lake and 37 in Sylvan Lake.

According to Boerger, “runs are generally consistent quarter-to-quarter.”

Flynn is a proponent of the agreement that is in place between the West Bloomfield Fire Department and the cities.

“The merger with the tri-cities has been beneficial to all four communities,” Flynn said. “All the residents benefit from the increased resources that we all share as part of the initial response to emergencies. We don’t have to wait and call additional resources in from what was once the tri-city fire department. It’s all completely integrated into one single response that is all integrated, and it is an effective response model for all four communities.”

Boerger said that the agreement that has been established with West Bloomfield is thriving.

“I’ve had testimonials from people that their lives were or their home was saved because the fire trucks arrived (in) under four minutes,” Boerger said. “And just seeing the data each quarter when we have a meeting with West Bloomfield to see how they’re performing … they continue to excel in every aspect and exceed our expectation, in terms of fire and EMS service.”

Boerger, who served as the chairman of the Tri-City Fire Board, shared what helped lead to his decision to resign.

“The 20-year milestone was a factor, and the biggest factor was we had a qualified replacement on City Council at Orchard Lake who had some fire and EMS experience — Kevin Kroger. Once that individual was identified to me, it was a simple decision.”

Each of the cities has two representatives on the board.

Although Boerger expressed a preference to have his resignation de-emphasized and the agreement that is in place between the tri-cities and West Bloomfield emphasized, others acknowledged the role he has played as part of the Tri-City Fire Board.

“They (Boerger and Eriksen) were so instrumental in this whole contract being put in place,” Horger said. “I appreciate what those two did, bringing this contract to fruition.”

Flynn thanked Boerger and credited him for his role in helping set the board up for success.

McCallum said that Boerger was instrumental in getting the contract with West Bloomfield in place.

“Dave has done an excellent job in representing not only our community, but the other two communities as well,” McCallum said.