Breakdowns, staffing hamper fire response
May 31, 2012 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Township fire fighters faced some extraordinary obstacles during an early-morning house fire last week as equipment failures plagued their efforts.
The fire started in the basement of a home on Dogwood Court in the Lake Pointe subdivision. Homeowner David Mills said a telephone call from his home alarm company woke him from a sound sleep and alerted him to the danger.
Mills said he and his wife were sleeping upstairs when the call came from his alarm company at about 3 a.m. informing him that the fire department had been notified and advising him to get out of the home. The alarm company had received a signal from his basement smoke alarm, Mills said, although he never heard any warning.
Mills, his wife, Cathleen, and family dog were able to get outside, but another family dog who wasn’t allowed upstairs could not be found. The 911 dispatcher who called the Mills home after being notified by the alarm company repeatedly advised them to leave the house immediately without the pet, which was later found and res- cued by a fireman at the scene.
With only four firefighters on duty at the two remaining open stations in Plymouth Township, fire personnel immediately notified the Northville Township Fire Department and requested help. Both Plymouth Township stations are several miles from the Lake Pointe subdivision where the fire station was recently closed as a cost-cutting measure.
En route from the Beck Road station, the brakes on one 20-year-old Plymouth Township fire engine failed, making the drive to the fire scene treacherous. John Werth, director of public safety for Northville Township, said seven of his firefighters were dispatched to supplement the three Plymouth Township firefighters who were already at the scene immediately after they were notified of the situation.
Werth, who had received a report from his lieutenant that the delay of the second Plymouth Township engine was due to a brake failure, said it was several minutes after his units arrived that the second Plymouth Township engine finally arrived.
The first three-man crew from the Ann Arbor Road fire station in Plymouth arrived about 9 minutes after the initial call. They were informed there were people in the house when they arrived, but they were unable to enter the home to attempt a rescue without the back up of the Northville Township crew, as dictated by professional safety standards and protocol, Werth said.
“The three firefighters there couldn’t do anything,” Werth said.
Exacerbating the situation, the engine from the Ann Arbor Road station stopped working almost immediately after arriving at the Mills’ home. Because of the vehicle failure, and delay of the second truck from the Beck Road station, firefighters hooked hose lines to hydrants, according to fire department reports of the incident.
Mills, who recently underwent heart surgery, said he thinks the fire might have started from a small battery charger for a video camera he had plugged-in in his basement office.
No injuries were reported in the incident although both Plymouth Township fire engines remain out of service. Fire officials said that Northville Township and Livonia fire departments have been alerted of that situation.
Mills said he was extremely grateful to the firefighters and felt lucky to be alive, thanks to their efforts. The basement and first floor of the home suffered water and smoke damage. Mills said he was hoping to be able to live in his family camper during the cleaning and repair of the home.