Assistant fire chief addresses response time criticism

A fire heavily damaged this Darby Street home in May that some residents blamed on a slow response time from the township fire department.

A fire heavily damaged this Darby Street home in May that some residents blamed on a slow response time from the township fire department.

FLINT TWP. — Some residents at recent township board meetings have criticized the understaffed township fire department for a slow response time to a May 23 fire on Darby Street off Dye Road.

Allegations include that neighboring fire departments were on the scene before the township’s truck, which came from Bristol Road instead of the closer fire station just up the road at 5331 Reuben Street.

Assistant Chief Mike Burkley sought to set the record straight at the township board’s July 6 meeting.

The alarm for the fire came in at 1:30 p.m. and Engine 31 was on site at 1:38 p.m., Burkley said. Flint Township fire Capt. Tom Stadler arrived on the scene at 1:41 p.m. and called for mutual-aid help at 1:48 p.m., Burkley said.

Swartz Creek responded quickly because the crew was already out on a previous call, he said. Usually, it takes about ten minutes for assistance to arrive.

The Flushing truck arrived at 2 p.m., Burkley said.

During public comment at the June 15 township board meeting, resident Gerald Roberts said the township fire truck from the Bristol Road station passed him en route to the fire. When he arrived at the scene, Roberts said he only saw trucks from Flushing and Swartz Creek.

Roberts said he was upset because township voters approved a $3 million Public Safety Millage in November which should be paying for help to arrive sooner if the truck had come from the closer Reuben Street station, which was unmanned,

At that same meeting, resident Dave Huffman, who is also a regular commenter, agreed with Roberts.

“I find it an embarrassment myself as a township resident when we can get better response from Flushing and Swartz Creek than our own fire department,” he said.

He also charged that taxpayers are not getting what they paid for.

Roberts and Huffman made similar comments at the June 1 township board meeting.

Township Supervisor Karyn Miller responded then that the township fire department’s response had been within a reasonable time. She also said the township has had a mutual-aid pact with neighboring department for many years.

The township fire department is made up of full-time and on-call firefighters. Ongoing efforts are in process to hire more full-time and on-call staffers.

Burkley also said the Darby Street house fire was about 50 percent involved when the crew arrived. The occupants were renters without insurance, he said. Representatives from the American Red Cross came to assist them in relocating.

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