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Detroit firefighters barred from aerials after years-long lapse in safety inspections

Firefighters will not be allowed on the aerial ladders, for as long as 6 weeks, unless there is an "immediate threat to life"

By FireRescue1 Staff

DETROIT — Detroit firefighters will no longer be allowed on their department's fleet of aerial truck hydraulic ladders because the vehicles have not been inspected for years.

Firefighters will only be allowed on the ladders if there is an "immediate threat to life" according to the Detroit Free Press.

Fire Commissioner Donald Austin said that firefighters will not be allowed on the ladders during water tower operations until the safety inspections are completed.

Commissioner Austin says that the new rule will minimally impact firefighters, but the union members disagree.

"What this means is, it greatly complicates our work, and it really makes it difficult for any fire that's over a couple stories high," said Dan McNamara, president of the Detroit firefighters union. "It minimizes our ability to put the fire out and also minimizes us to be safe as we're doing ventilation and rescue operations."

Commissioner Austin said that the aerial trucks should be tested every five years for metal fatigue and cracks and also annually tested.

"We haven't done either," Austin told the Free Press. "Now that I have knowledge, I'd be remiss if I didn't do something about it."

"No aerial ladders will have firefighters on them unless there is an immediate threat to life. If a ladder must be used, every effort will be made to properly support the ladder," Commissioner Austin said in a city-wide statement.

Firefighter McNamara said that without the ladders, firefighters will now have to carry saws and axes up an extension ladder, making the work more "manual."

"It's not just our ladders," McNamara said. "The real question should be, 'What else is there that the fire department is obligated to inspect and certify and they haven't?'"

It is unclear when the ladders were last tested.

A private contractor will be hired to inspect the equipment, possibly finishing in six weeks.

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Walter M. Holden Walter M. Holden Monday, February 04, 2013 11:33:35 AM I bet the contractor will require payment in advance.
Cory G Ekern Cory G Ekern Monday, February 04, 2013 11:48:56 AM I don't understand why DFD is complaining about this (or, more accurately, why the firefighters' union is complaining about it). It's ridiculous to me to read that these aerial ladders haven't been inspected "in years", when any good fire department KNOWS the benefits of yearly inspections. It shouldn't matter if the inspection takes a week or so. Swap one aerial out for inspection, and call another aerial in from another DFD firehouse, and repeat the process until they've all been checked out. If I were a firefighter, there's no way you'd get me on an aerial ladder that hasn't been inspected "for years". If anything, the automation of fire departments and their apparatus has spoiled firefighters and allowed them to get away from basic, standard operating procedure, which is the only reason the union's screaming about this. Poor babies will actually have to WORK for a while without the benefit of technological advances. Cry me a river. Your forefathers SUCCESSFULLY fought fires with a LOT less than what you all have today, so grow the **** up and be more like your forefathers, ya big babies.
John J. Brazil John J. Brazil Monday, February 04, 2013 12:10:13 PM How can they keep there ISO rating without inspections? and not help with the saftey for there firefighters.
Mike Shumaker Mike Shumaker Monday, February 04, 2013 12:29:29 PM Ground ladders have to be inspected also. At least in Pa
Scott List-Ramler Scott List-Ramler Monday, February 04, 2013 12:30:42 PM Go work a structure fire maybe then you'll understand. pull the apparatus out of service get them checked extensively and get them back in service asap.
Joshua Carbon Joshua Carbon Monday, February 04, 2013 12:58:41 PM each tower truck should be inspected each day, or week by their truck manufacturers or a highly qualified company (Private or Not).
Joshua Carbon Joshua Carbon Monday, February 04, 2013 12:59:50 PM Here in ashland a daily inspection of our tower is done, along with engine checks and hose tests.
Walter M. Holden Walter M. Holden Monday, February 04, 2013 1:45:44 PM Yes. In Michigan also.
Walter M. Holden Walter M. Holden Monday, February 04, 2013 1:49:17 PM Makes you wonder what else is not being inspected, like SCBA hydrostat, ground ladders, ropes, vehicle inspections, tires, buildings, occupancy, fire extinguishers, and on and on.......
Robert Diaz Robert Diaz Monday, February 04, 2013 2:35:04 PM You sir, are a major fuggin idiot! I suppose you cook ALL your meals on the stove top and in the oven instead of that microwave, huh? I suppose you walk or take that horse and buggy to work and the market everyday there, huh? I suppose you also take the stairs ALL the time instead of using those convenient elevators and escalators ALL the time, huh? Hey MORON, it's called technology and we not only use it to make things easier and to preserve our health but also to be MORE efficient in saving live and property. By the looks of you, though, you live in a tent in the woods and wear patchouli so you're probably adverse to technology, huh? Wait, what are you doing using a computer/cellphone, shouldn't you have your quill and ink well and writing this by lamplight?
Scot Finney Scot Finney Monday, February 04, 2013 2:49:34 PM I know here in Oklahoma it's roughly 700.00 a stick for an annual ladder test, and 1.25 a ft. for ground ladders. So I would want my money up front cause that's going to be a big bill.
Lisa Sutherland Shepard Lisa Sutherland Shepard Monday, February 04, 2013 3:24:23 PM Just incomprehensible!!!!
Jack Kittrick Jack Kittrick Monday, February 04, 2013 3:31:29 PM not paying for maintenance saves the city money , just another way they show respect for the firefighters who put their lives on the line every day!
Jeremy Gardner Jeremy Gardner Monday, February 04, 2013 4:02:58 PM this is just stupid to not have this done! this is a big safety issue and if the aerials were not being inspected or tested properly like they should be then what else is a blind eye being turned too? let a firefighter brother or sister get injured while doing there job and OSHA come in bet they will have wished they would have had the inspections done!
Frank Plunkett Frank Plunkett Monday, February 04, 2013 4:54:27 PM How can the firefighters complain this restriction? They should be livid that the inspections have not been done!
Dirk Janiak Dirk Janiak Monday, February 04, 2013 5:04:32 PM Wow..... I'm at a loss of words. Let's how a city let's down their bravest!
John P. Zwilling John P. Zwilling Monday, February 04, 2013 5:31:16 PM Fl too.
Gary Baar Gary Baar Monday, February 04, 2013 5:32:22 PM Wow, even some of us small Cities take our inspections serious. At least they are correcting the issue.
Alan Alonso Alan Alonso Monday, February 04, 2013 5:36:47 PM Another Detroit joke.
Jay Bal Jay Bal Monday, February 04, 2013 5:57:21 PM There is no way you test your hose everyday... if you do then you must not do anything but checks all day long.
S.j. Jones S.j. Jones Monday, February 04, 2013 6:05:02 PM this is a serious issue for everyone in Detroit citizens and firefighters as well But the big picture is Detroit as a whole is suffering, Firefighters pay, benefits, i.e. their equipment, police dept., public works everything is working off a bare min. budget. Now Government can bail out banks, auto, etc. but can they or will they help a Great city like Detroit. Not saying its all our responsibility, but it is our responsibility to protect citizens our babies across the country. Pray for a speedy recovery Hats off to the Ladies and gentlemen doing their best.
Tom Kitzmiller Tom Kitzmiller Monday, February 04, 2013 6:38:29 PM We're a volunteer dept , and ours are inspected, get it done !!
Alexander Croci Alexander Croci Monday, February 04, 2013 7:18:29 PM For FD management to let this maintenance requirement go is simply asinine! Idiots must run the Detroit FD!
Tom Kelly Tom Kelly Monday, February 04, 2013 7:24:07 PM With everything that's going wrong Detroit, you have to wonder who is running the asylum!
Charles Cunningham Charles Cunningham Monday, February 04, 2013 8:33:14 PM Our volunteer department inspects all it ladder trucks and ground ladders every year. A failure could cost someone their future employment or worse their life. The lawsuits that would follow from not inspecting are a lot more expensive than the inspections.
Andy Jensen Andy Jensen Monday, February 04, 2013 11:17:24 PM I wouldn't get on an aerial that hasn't been inspected in years. I cannot see why the union is flipping out about this, rather than the fact that, hooo, I dunno, the aerials haven't been inspected in *years*? Yeah it makes the job harder, no question. You bet that it's going to make ventilation and roof access difficult or impossible. It's not, at least in my eyes, that we shouldn't use our technological advances because there's an older way of doing things, but we sure shouldn't use them if they're in disrepair and potentially dangerous. Just because someone suggests that it gets dealt with for a few weeks until the potential safety hazards by using older methods does not mean they are a complete Luddite. If I may quote my favorite (and IMO the most important of the) 10 Standard FIRE ORDERS ... "Fight fire aggressively, but provide for safety first!"
Jack White Jack White Tuesday, February 05, 2013 3:47:16 AM Speaking from experience, ISO will do their visit, and then if something is not right, either for good or bad, they will tell you they will correct it on the next visit. I know, they made a mistake on my last visit in 2004, and that is what they told me, and I am still waiting for correction. I asked for a new inspection, they said the corrections would be noted on the next scheduled inspection and the change made then.
Troy Engel Troy Engel Tuesday, February 05, 2013 4:17:14 AM Is any one here really suprised? the DFD has to work for living. so they wear there stuff out. Its sad that a lack of buget has caused this, Glad to see no one has been hurt. they'll get it fixed and move on.
Perry J. Ferrara Jr. Perry J. Ferrara Jr. Tuesday, February 05, 2013 4:58:04 AM What is the name of the Administrator responsible for the inspections and when will he/she be getting fired? There is no excuse for placing the firefighters and the community in needless danger.
John Cools John Cools Tuesday, February 05, 2013 6:09:58 AM wtf is going on in detriot.
Tuesday, February 05, 2013 7:23:11 AM We should ALL remember this is Detroit where they invited non DFD personnel to come and vacation and fight fires. This should not suprise ANYONE! What's next, the entire department to be out in public works trucks if not doing fire work? Give me a break! The feds should step in and straighten this place out.
Jim Howard Jim Howard Tuesday, February 05, 2013 7:28:28 AM Detroit, what years of leadership by the democratic party has done to this city, the national democratic party is trying to do this country.
JB Riley JB Riley Tuesday, February 05, 2013 7:50:41 AM Wow
Lynn Tyrrell Lynn Tyrrell Tuesday, February 05, 2013 10:01:08 AM They need a woman in charge!
Brian Halwachs Brian Halwachs Tuesday, February 05, 2013 11:36:57 AM How can ou not do it for your peronnel let alone the general public.
Mike Mavrogeorge Mike Mavrogeorge Tuesday, February 05, 2013 11:41:00 AM They have not conducted required safety inspections of their aerials for years. Some of them are more dangerous to the firefighters, let alone the public. A contractor should have them all inspected in 6 weeks. Now we'll see how many of them fail.
Stephen Woodruff Stephen Woodruff Tuesday, February 05, 2013 5:55:32 PM Just retired from combination department after 35 years of service. All of our equipment was inspected by every shift. Our aerial trucks ladder is inspected and certified by proper agencies on an annual basis. I never had second thoughts about responding to an alarm with any of our equipment. Shame on the City of Detroit!
Scott Buresh Scott Buresh Wednesday, February 06, 2013 2:34:16 PM Mr. Gillbert you clearly state that you are not a firefighter in your post; so I challenge you sir to put on a full set of turnout gear including a SCBA and climb a 35 foot extension ladder carrying a ventilation saw or perhaps a 15 foot roof ladder and then climb onto the roof of the two story home. What the idea doesn't suit the fancy of the oh so wise paralegal. Well then lets again use our turnoutgear with SCBA and a highrise pack (couple hundred feet of hose, hose nozzles, some wrenches, valves and handles, and an axe or haligan tool. In the neighborhood of 75-80 pounds) run up to the fourth floor of the office building instead of using the aerial ladder truck to get that bag of equipment up to the fourth floor. One last point for you to ponder, the city officals of Detroit have been neglecting basic needs of all the entites in the public safety sector for a long time. In the fire houses, the men and women of the DFD have put up with things no person should ever have to endure. Recently I read a few articles about a number of plumbing issues that caused sewer gas to backup in to the "houses"; another the city would not provide simple things such as toilet paper. My point for you is that these firefighters don't need the stress of dealing with equipment in disrepair. Rember work smarter not harder.
Karl Wiggins Karl Wiggins Wednesday, February 06, 2013 6:53:23 PM these guys don't have time to test and inspect every day they find out shit works on each and every run they go on.
Lynn Edmonds Lynn Edmonds Thursday, February 07, 2013 1:50:26 PM They don't care about the fire department. But, don't let anything happen to the Detroit police department. People up there need to get their, shit together.
Steve Edgar Steve Edgar Thursday, February 07, 2013 6:22:36 PM WOW...What have the people in that Fire Department been doing for the last 20 years. Annual testing has been the norm my entire 20 year career, and the worse part is it sounds as if their union is upset with this. Makes you wonder about the Departments leadership as well as the Unions.
Barbara Bigley Czencz Barbara Bigley Czencz Monday, March 18, 2013 5:28:12 PM Makes it hard to fight those multi-story building fires doesn't it? What else hasn't been inspected? I agree with Walter M. Holden. Wake up people, your safety is important. This is all a matter of life and death.

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