By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN — Last August, after months of discussions, the fire departments in Dearborn and Melvindale merged and consolidated operations to serve both cities as one team.
One year later, administrators and the fire chiefs are applauding the move.
Dearborn Fire Chief Joe Murray said the “whole process has been a success.”
“We spent a tremendous amount of time — between six months to one year — planning and researching the merger prior to implementation,” Murray said. “All of the work really helped ensure a seamless transition.”
Murray said that in anticipation of the merger, the firefighters in both departments began working together.
“Each city had their own system and protocols, so working together both squads were educated in the unique hazards of each community,” Murray said. “We also had firefighters rotating between different stations after the merger to learn the layout of each city.”
Murray said the rotating will lessen during year 2 of the merger though it also helped build camaraderie between firefighters.
“We’ve got a great bunch of guys and they’ve established a tight relationship and bond through working together,” Murray said. “Melvindale guys assisted at our Homecoming festival and our guys helped at the Melvindale Days festival. There really isn’t two separate departments anymore. We’re one team.”
Murray said that since the merger the department has seen an improvement in response time to all areas in the southeast and southwest sections of the city, an increase in firefighters that are available daily to 28, an increased availability of EMS rigs and an added confined space rescue team to the department.
“Across the board we’ve seen improvements and we’ve seen reduced costs and improved services to both cities,” Murray said.
The merger, which was signed into affect Aug. 25, 2013, by Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. and Melvindale Mayor Stacy Striz, brought all 13 Melvindale firefighters, their fire station and supplies under the leadership of the Dearborn department.
Melvindale also pays Dearborn $1.25 million annually as part of the merger, with the money covering operating costs such as salaries and going into a general fund that will be used for vehicle repairs and replacements. Both cities will share the fund.
Melvindale Fire Chief Steven Densmore became Aassistant fire chief in the new department.
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected].)