Internal memo shows Detroit Fire Department is out of compliance with national standards

DETROIT (WXYZ) - An internal memo obtained by 7 Action News says the Detroit Fire Department is out of compliance with safety standards for its fleet of 19 aerial ladders.

The memo is dated January 31, 2013 and is from Craig Dougherty, Chief of Department, to Commissioner Donald Austin. It says:

"It has come to Administration's attention that we are out of compliance with NFPA 1914 regarding annual and five year testing requirements. Therefore effective immediately there will be (sic) no manned aerial ladder master stream operations. Additionally, unless an immediate threat to life of the public or fire fighter, the aerial ladder shall not have fire fighters on it. If the ladder must be used, every effort shall be made to have a supported ladder operation."

Fire union president, Dan McNamara, says the allegations of non-compliance are overwhelming. "We check our equipment every single day, every time we have a fire," said McNamara. "But the testing they're talking about is the integrity of the steel that makes this ladder operate. We can't test that, we don't know."

Fire Commissioner Donald Austin released this written statement Saturday evening:

"The Detroit Fire Department has determined internally that the department is out of compliance with industry standards regarding required testing of aerial ladders. Once the Administration became aware that aerial ladder trucks were not being inspected adequately, we were compelled to make some safety-based adjustments to the use of ladders. I have therefore ordered that until a full inspection of the entire ladder fleet is completed, there will be no more manned aerial ladder water tower operations and that no aerial ladders will have firefighters on them unless there is an immediate threat to life.  If a ladder must be used, every effort will be made to properly support the ladder.

The fire department is in the process of identifying an independent contractor to inspect the entire ladder fleet immediately.

The Apparatus Division's staff has declined over the years from a high of 63 to 26 today. The reduction in staff, coupled with an aging fleet, presents maintenance challenges."

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