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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"

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.

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