Fire department consolidation models

Neighboring fire departments consider multiple consolidation models and propose strategies to increase cost-effectiveness

Officials in Dearborn and Melvindale, Mich., are reviewing models for merging local public safety departments to save money and increase efficient use of resources.

The proposed consolidation strategy under consideration would involve the Melvindale fire department being absorbed by the Dearborn department. Much of Melvindale’s staff and equipment would remain operating out of the city’s current fire station, while management structures and budgetary decisions would be determined by Dearborn.

Melvindale would see a significant reduction in the city’s budget through consolidation of its fire department, while Dearborn residents near the Melvindale border will enjoy faster access to emergency services. The proposed strategy would preserve firefighter seniority earned in Melvindale when determining management positions, with the Dearborn Fire Chief running the consolidated department and the Melvindale fire chief assuming the deputy chief role.

In addition, the consolidation strategy may include Allen Park as a third partner of the shared services. Allen Park is struggling to overcome a $4 million deficit with a $20 million annual budget which could be greatly remedied with a merging of emergency services departments.

New Models For Emergency Services

According to the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the latest trends in shared services and consolidation of emergency departments are creating new models for providing residents with access to assistance. While some communities such as Dearborn and Melvindale are considering having one city absorb the department of another, there are several other consolidation models that have proven successful including:

  • Communities are developing informal sharing of personnel and equipment between departments to address short-term disparities.
  • Departments are launching specialized services that share workers and resources including hazardous-material response vehicles, heavy-rescue trucks and information services. As the need for these services occurs less frequently, neighboring communities are able to service residents efficiently with shared resources.
  • Municipalities are recruiting specialized staff for niche projects through collaborative efforts that ensure qualified workers join the team and are able to provide services to all participating communities. This allows each city to take advantage of specialists in various fields, without having to shoulder the entire salary or contract independently.

The IAFC also offered guidance on overcoming the common roadblock of misunderstanding consolidation options by participating or interested parties. To overcome such hesitations, consider:

  • Allowing each department to retain its duty assignments while combining other aspects such as training programs
  • Maintaining independent fire departments while contracting an agreement to share resources in certain circumstances
  • Combining fire departments into one larger entity through a legal process

York Success Story

The York Area United Fire and Rescue Chief recently spoke out about the recent creation of a regional department in Pennsylvania that brought together resources and manpower from the Spring Garden Township and Springettsbury Township departments. The chief emphasized the importance of putting public safety before financial considerations when developing a consolidation strategy. The chief explained the process of deciding on a way to merge services will be long and complicated, but offers significant benefits.

Trending Fire Mergers

Gov1 has followed the consolidation of fire departments nationwide that are making better use of resources and saving millions.

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