Fire department running smoothly post-merger

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — So far, so good for the merging of the Dearborn and Melvindale fire departments four months ago.

The departments officially merged Aug. 25, and Dearborn Fire Chief Joseph Murray said things are going as well as could be expected.

“It’s really been running smoothly so far,” Murray said. “Operationally, all of our expectations have been met and it’s been a nice transition from two separate departments into one.”

As part of the merger, the DFD absorbed all 13 Melvindale firefighters and agreed to rent Melvindale’s fire station for $1 annually, giving Dearborn five fire stations.

Melvindale also will pay Dearborn $1.25 million annually as part of the merger. This money will cover operating costs such as salaries and go into a general fund that will be used for vehicle repairs and replacements, and both cities will share this fund.

Murray said both cities entered into the talks expecting to see an improved service to their communities, reduced costs, an elimination of redundant services and have a more efficient staffing model.

Deputy Fire Chief Steven Densmore, who was fire chief in the former Melvindale Fire Department, said having both communities benefit was mandatory.

“We both sat down in the talks looking to see if merging would allow each community to improve their operations and services,” Densmore said. “As talks continued it became more and more apparent that we had very similar operations. It made a merger make a lot of sense.”

Talks for the merger began in August 2012.

Murray said the merger made geographic sense also based on the positions of the five stations of the combined departments, since some of Dearborn’s stations are closer to Melvindale and Melvindale’s station was closer to southwest Dearborn than any of their existing stations.

“Rescue workers respond from at least two stations when there is an emergency, so the closer the station, the less time it takes for the crews to dispatch there to help,” Murray said. “We have definitely had better primary response times in the areas of the city south of Michigan Avenue since the merger.”

Murray said that after the city councils for both cities approved the merger in June he set about getting the Melvindale firefighters introduced to the area and the community by rotating them into the four Dearborn stations.

“I really wanted to get the crews intermingling and working together,” Murray said. “That way when the contract went into affect in August we could hit the ground running.”

Densmore said the training time was beneficial to members of the MFD.

“Our operations and procedures were very similar, so it was a matter of learning the new community and becoming familiar with the area and routes,” Densmore said. “Those weeks of work really helped make this an easy merger.”

Murray added that other communities and cities in the state have merged service departments, but generally just for financial reasons, not necessarily operational reasons.

“This wasn’t a merger based solely on financial reasons,” Murray said. “I believe that we have struck a good balance between finances and operations by merging because we have essentially erased the border between the two communities. We have both benefitted from this.”

Benefits specific for Melvindale included increased response levels for emergencies, the availability of more EMS/fire vehicles, more rapid second alarms and full-time divisions for non-suppression services.

It also allowed them to eliminate their reliance on assistance from the Allen Park Fire Department because the services and additional support available from the four Dearborn stations make up for it.

Benefits for Dearborn included an improvement in response time to all areas in the southeast and southwest sections of the city, an increase in firefighters who are available daily to 28, an increased availability of EMS rigs and an added confined space rescue team to the department.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)

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