Service Cuts Have Resulted In Sharp Rise In Number & Frequency of Fire-Related Deaths

A2P Notes: This is filed under “Scoops & Scores,” because you read it here first!

The graph, above, is simple to read. As the number of firefighters in Ann Arbor has declined, the number and regularity of fire fatalities have increased sharply. Let’s be clear, “fire fatalities,” as well as “crime statistics” are people. They are our neighbors, friends, and work colleagues. They are sons, daughters, mothers and fathers. A “slight rise in crime,” means more women were raped in Ann Arbor, dozens more homes were invaded, and there were more cases of loss of property and life. More people who live in our city are being victimized. More people who live in our city have burned to death in fires with more regularity than ever before.

A recent “fire fatality” happened in January 2011. His name was Jacob Rachford. Rachford, 20, died at the University of Michigan Hospital from fire and smoke inhalation when his house at 2275 Westaire Court went up in flames, the result of a kitchen fire. Jacob Rachford was a graduate of Community High School. He was a diver at Pioneer High School and enjoyed rock climbing and skydiving. That’s what his Mom told AnnArbor.com. She added, “He was just my baby.”

Four months after Terri Rachford’s son, Jacob, died in a house fire, John Hieftje told AnnArbor.com that he is “comfortable” with the cuts to emergency services that he has made over the course of the past decade, as well as with proposed cuts. He is “comfortable” that, it appears from the data presented in the fire fatality chart above, more people than ever before are dying in Ann Arbor as a result of the closure of a fire station, the severe cuts made to our fire personnel, and revolving “shut-downs” of fire stations to save money. Jacob Rachford is dead and four short months later, to justify past cuts, as well as currently proposed cuts to emergency services, Ann Arbor’s Mayor told AnnArbor.com he is “comfortable.”

The graph, above, was emailed this morning by the Ann Arbor Fire Fighters Union to John Hieftje and every member of the Ann Arbor City Council. This past Sunday, former Fire Chief Dominick Lanza contributed an opinion piece to AnnArbor.com in which he included staffing data from several cities to show that Ann Arbor’s current fire staffing is well below that of comparably-sized towns.

Charleston, S.C. 19 fire stations

Population:  120,000
Firefighters:  305
Decatur, Ill.  7 fire stations

Population:  109,000
Firefighters:  118

Peoria, Ill.  12 fire stations
Population:  113,000
Firefighters:  196             

Lansing, Mich.  8 fire stations
Population:  114,000
Firefighters:  200

Topeka, Kan.  12 fire Stations
Population:  122,000
Firefighters:  250

Ann Arbor, MI  5 fire stations
Population:  110,000
Firefighters:  86

Lanza goes on to write:

Cuts in fire and police services have led to serious issues. In fire services, it has led to more fire loss and possibly loss of life. In police services, there have been armed daylight robberies of banks, jewelry stores, credit union, etc. Safety services is not the place to cut any further and in the case of fire staffing needs to be increased by at least 20 firefighters to provide adequate protection. Why didn’t I say these things when I worked in the city? I wasn’t asked or given the opportunity by the council or the media. However, now I can.

Meanwhile, to justify a decade of cuts to emergency services, John Hieftje makes up facts for AnnArbor.com to repeat verbatim without verification. On April 26, 2011 in an interview with the AnnArbor.com editorial board, Hieftje was quoted as claiming, “There’s about 12 or 13 times a year, as I understand it, where they even hook up to a fire hydrant, so that possibility is fairly remote.”

An official with the Ann Arbor Fire Department, when asked where Hieftje got that number, told A2Politico, “We don’t note anywhere on on our reports whether we hook up to a hydrant. There’s no record of that anywhere. Plus, we respond with the pumper truck, and often don’t need to hook up to a hydrant.”

When AnnArbor.com caught Hieftje making up other information, instead of documenting then refuting the misleading and factually inaccurate claims, Stanton posted a notice at the top of his piece that, “A factually incorrect statement made by the mayor has been removed from this story.” Removed? Newspapers don’t remove factually inaccurate statements made by politicians. Newspapers reveal, document, refute and report.

An anonymous reader put it best in a comment below the one in which Stanton casually points out that AnnArbor.com, in essence, covered up Hieftje’s false claims:

Dear Ryan,

Is it appropriate to just remove those paragraphs?

My problem is not so much budgets that need to be tightened, but politicians – our mayor and our city manager – misleading the public with inaccurate information. And that information being communicated via AnnArbor.Com and other media.

I think it is totally wrong to just remove those paragraphs and note it in a comment 131 comments later.

How about adding to the article that you did some fact checking and found that the mayor’s comment was untrue?

Or, using today’s technology, strike through those statements and add an explanation that readers can see when they hover over the sentences that have been crossed out.

To just delete an untruth told by the mayor days later is so wrong. The issue IS these inaccuracies.

John Hieftje is “comfortable” that more women were raped in Ann Arbor this year than last year. Hieftje is “comfortable” that there are have been more armed robberies in Ann Arbor this year than any year since 2005. John Hieftje told the media and the public that he sees Terri Rachford’s loss of her son, Jacob, as an outcome with which he is “comfortable.”

Are you? To contact Hieftje and Council with your concerns, click here.

Short URL: http://www.a2politico.com/?p=7864

9 Comments for “Service Cuts Have Resulted In Sharp Rise In Number & Frequency of Fire-Related Deaths”

  1. Can A2Politico be better than this? I can’t stop reading!

  2. From FACEBOOK: “Next you’re going to be telling us that icebergs are dangerous to ships.”—Rob Tudor

  3. @ChuckL great question. Obviously, the spin is to say police and fire are sucking up more the the General Fund, percentage wise, than they did in 2001. That’s what Chris Taylor wrote in another of his infamously error-riddled emails to constituents. Here’s the truth: several large budget items have since been removed from the GF (golf, for example). So, of course the police and fire will be a larger percentage of a smaller GF number. The correct answer is that this Mayor and Council have spent more to build than the GF can handle in debt payments and still provide basic services at levels that are safe.

  4. Riddle me this: how come the city can afford 115 Full Time Firefighters in 2001 with $55 million in property tax collection but can only afford 88 Firefighters in 2010 with $80 million in property tax collection? Can you say, Hole-By-The-Library and other assorted white elephants? BTW, the CPI calculator at http://www.bls.gov says $55 million in 2001 is like $68 million in 2010.

  5. Can someone tell me how Ann Arbor Democrats could sit by and not see the connection between fewer firemen and more “fire fatalities?” There are those who don’t want to see, and those not bright enough to make the connection, but for the rest I can’t come up with an explanation. Hizzoner is “comfortable” with the cuts? Good grief! That has to be one of more ignorant comments he has made as of late. In light of the recent death of Jacob Rachford it is also one of the most cold-bloodied, as well. Then again, the man has always struck me as somewhat reptilian.

  6. Robert C. Smith

    Yes, thanks for connecting the dots (once again). Though there isn’t a direct cause-effect relationship in the data, I would have to agree that the correlation is absolutely worth investigating. I am waiting for the mayor to comment in reaction to this information that the number of deaths is relatively small. When he does that (and he will at some point, I bet) he should be recalled. I don’t give a damn whether he’s ‘comfortable’ or not, and I can’t quite believe he had the bad taste to say that after the death of a young man in a house fire.

    We are fortunate in our community to have A2Politico, and I want to thank you for working to make this site a valued resource.

  7. Sam Kirkpatrick

    Now, I hate to double post, but I would like to add that it’s not clear to me that the cuts to fire services have definitively CAUSED an increase in fire deaths, but there’s certainly a correlation.

    However, just pointing out that correlation is a public service that nobody else is providing. It should give rise to a number of important questions.

  8. Sam Kirkpatrick

    Finally, somebody puts two and two together. Thank you.

    As for the a2dotcom editorial board, it’s a bunch of wet noodles. No self-respecting news organization would operate this way. It’s very sad what the Newhouse experiment has come to.

  9. Why aren’t our police officers trained to fight fires and have firefighting gear in their trunks, as is the case in Sunnyvale, CA?

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