Blaze at fire station should be wake-up call

Plymouth City Manager, Paul Sincock


July 8, 2013  PLYMOUTH EAGLE. 




There were no firemen on duty at the station, or in fact, anywhere in the City of Plymouth which no longer has a full-time fire department.


We predicted that there would be an incident that would bring some attention to the current state of fire safety staffing in Plymouth.

We weren’t exactly wrong, but we never could have imagined the situation as it occurred recently when the downtown City of Plymouth fire station was the site of a fire that resulted in more than a half million dollars in damage. According to Plymouth City Manager Paul Sincock, the fire actually started in the engine of one of the newest fire trucks, valued at about $300,000 before the added extra equipment. It spread, Sincock said, into the cab of the vehicle. Eventually, according to witnesses, the entire truck was engulfed in flames. The heat from the fire severely damaged the building, which was remodeled recently to accommodate the fire equipment. The $500,000 or so in damages will be paid, Sincock said, by the city insurance company after a $500 deductible. There were no firemen on duty at the station, or in fact, anywhere in the City of Plymouth which no longer has a full-time fire department. Instead, the city relies on an on-call fire department shared with the City of Northville.

Two police officers smelled the smoke when the “special fire garage gas detectors inside the facility” began to operate and the “high-tech system” began to ventilate the smoke outside.

The City of Plymouth firefighters are a group of about 10 volunteers who meet every Thursday for two hours to train. These are the folks who were apparently first on the scene or who arrived in 5 minutes. They are also the guys who rushed into the station, without fire gear or masks, to try and get the other vehicles of the conflagration. They were joined by the on-call firefighters fro the City of Northville, and the 28 or so of these volunteers and on-call guys worked to save equipment and try to get the fire out. After about 20 minutes, according to reports, they also call the four professional firefighters on duty in Plymouth Township and the fire was extinguished five minutes after their arrival.

Thirty minutes to put out a fire in the fire station. Thirty minutes.

Many area residents said they were shocked and surprised to learn that the City of Plymouth no longer had a full-time professional fire department. Having a fire chief based in the City of Northville overseeing a crew of 55 on-call staffers who have to receive the alarm, respond to the Northville or Plymouth station, get into their gear, or into a fire vehicle, and get to the scene of the fire apparently seemed like a model of efficiency to both Sincock and the Plymouth City Council members.

Us, we had some doubts.

There are apparently two of these on-call guys assigned to a Northville/Plymouth station for eight or 12 hours a day, or so we’ve been told. They sure aren’t there washing the trucks at 4 a.m., however.

Maybe this was the incident we predicted would call attention to the dire state of fire protection in both Plymouth Township and the city. There have now been some changes in fire response protocol in that the city now immediately calls the township for backup rather than waiting to see what the on-call and volunteers can accomplish first.

Ironic that the city now admits the need for the township firefighters they dismissed when the combined city and township fire department was disbanded. Ironic, too, that the township officials have continued to reduce fire department staffing in a transfer to the system the city has just acknowledged isn’t working as well as it should.

We hope that this incident, where there were no injuries, where the city will pay only about $500 to have the truck and equipment replaced and the building repaired will also be a wake up call for city residents, even if it did come at 4 a.m.

This is the epitome of a what-could-have-been scenario.

If it takes 28 on-call and volunteer firefighters and four professionals 30 minutes to put out a fire in a truck inside the fire department, what chance does a local homeowner have?

|News Plymouth Michigan

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