Macomb Township expands firefighter staff

By: Thomas Franz | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published December 14, 2016

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The number of full-time firefighters in Macomb Township is about to triple.

During a Dec. 7 Macomb Township Board of Trustees meeting, Fire Chief Robert Phillips got the go-ahead to extend employment offers for 11 full-time firefighting positions.

It is the first wave of full-time hires after a committee recommended in June to recruit more personnel to the department.

At that time, the department had seven full-time staff, including a deputy 2nd chief, and 48 paid on-call and auxiliary positions.

Negotiations with the Michigan Professional Firefighters union followed, and with the 11 additions, the Fire Department will now have 16 full-time firefighters, plus a deputy and chief, in addition to 65 paid on-call personnel.

“It’s taken time to go through the process, but both sides had the same goal and worked with that understanding,” Phillips said. “We looked at everything and said this was the direction the township should go in.”

Phillips said during the meeting that the board authorized its human resources department Nov. 9 to initiate the recruitment process for full-time firefighters. The positions were posted internally to current members of the fire department, and there were 21 applicants for the jobs.

The positions will have a salary of $48,000 and begin on or after Dec. 13, Phillips said.

Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union Sixth District Vice President Matthew Sahr appreciated the board’s approval of 11 more positions, but said he still wants to see a larger staff in the township.

“It’s the beginning of a new day for Macomb Township,” Sahr said. “Eleven is a good start, and hopefully over the next year, they’ll be able to add even more, as the budget allows. A community of this size needs a bare minimum of somewhere between 12 and 16 guys to day to meet the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) standards for a house fire.”

Sahr said those standards say that a department needs 16 people to properly extinguish a house fire, and with the additional staff, the township would still be around four full-time personnel per day.

“We’re going to need more, obviously, going forward,” Sahr said.

Sahr expressed some frustration with the length of time it took to get more full-time positions, but said this is a move toward increasing public safety for residents.

“This, of course, is a big change. This used to be a farming community 25 years ago. Now it’s close to being an urban community,” Sahr said. “When you have that many people concentrated in such a small area, on top of that, a lot of two-lane roads, it’s bad news. You’re asking too much for someone to try to respond during rush hour. There’s just no possible way.”

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