Four Macomb County fire departments are weighing whether to enter into a $200,000 study to determine if they should consolidate services – a move that would create one of the biggest merged fire departments in Michigan.
A unit consolidating Sterling Heights, Mount Clemens and Clinton and Harrison townships would serve more than 250,000 residents, the Detroit Free Press reports. Combined the four fire departments have about a dozen fire stations and nearly 200 firefighters/medical responders.
State Fire Marshal Richard Marshal said the Macomb County fire departments are among several in the state that are looking at or have gone ahead with consolidation. Many are using grant money to assist them in researching the effectiveness of merging departments.
Among the issues to be considered in the study – which all of the fire unions and communities have agreed to support – would be location of stations and apparatus, staffing, cost savings and bulk purchasing. Sharing agreements could include everything from sharing a fire chief to merging entire departments, as long as service isn’t reduced.
“Within the fire service ...manpower is everything,” Clinton Township Fire Chief Jack Shea said.
Harrison County Township Battalion Fire Chief Andy Houde, who is the president of the Harrison Township Firefighters Association Local 1737, said that not looking at efficiencies that could be gained from consolidation would be “irresponsible.”
A 2013 study conducted when Harrison Township and Mount Clemens officials were discussing a merger that within five years of merging, the two departments could save $1 million annually.
“We have to rethink the way we do business,” said Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin.