Detroit firefighters concerned over new power line policy

Retired Senior Fire Chief Tracy Thomas said the department’s new policy that says firefighters should not stay with downed power lines could prove disastrous

By FireRescue1 Staff

DETROIT — Firefighters are voicing their concerns about a new policy that says they should not stay with downed power lines until they are fixed.

FOX 2 reported that a new order was issued on April 15 by Detroit Fire Department Chief Robert Distelrath that requires firefighters to return to service after taping off downed wires.

"All units be advised when responding to power lines notify central office, tape and secure the area and return in service,” the order states.

However, after a woman recently died from electrocution after touching an unattended line, some in the fire service think the new policy could prove disastrous, including retired Senior Fire Chief Tracy Thomas.

"Who knows when we're going to get that run compared to the wires or not," he said. "You've got to face what's in front of you right now. I don't think we should be putting it off just in case we get a fire or we get an EMS run. No, we need to deal with the situation at hand."


Thomas added that other firefighters have voiced concerns about it as well.

"I think we've had two civilian casualties," Thomas said. "I think one little girl, if I’m not mistaken; a little boy a couple years ago on the way to school. So they're very concerned about it because not only do they not want that on their conscious, but they don't want anybody to be hurt."

Detroit Fire Commissioner Eric Jones said the policy was put in place to free up time for firefighters to be available to respond to other calls.

"We don't want to have an instance where firefighters are tied up sitting on a wire when there are other wires that are down," he said. "And other structures that are burning, because of those downed wires."

Jones added that the department is “expanding a program” to help with the issue.

"I am working with some of my department head colleagues to figure out a way to get city employees involved in sitting on some of these downed wires that have been identified until DTE, because they are also inundated, can arrive to repair those downed wires."

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