Consolidation of Fire Departments


Current economic situation has pressured state and local governments to cut down costs. This in turn has reduced the budgets of any fire departments. Emergency Medical and firefighting services are some of the most critical public-safety functions. The fire department responds to many varied types of incidents including fire suppression, Emergency Medical Services, hazardous material incidents and wildfire suppression. In the era of reduced budges, fire departments are consequently asked to take up more responsibilities with less. With the increasing roles, rising costs, demand for increased services, and improved quality of services, the decentralized fire department systems have been stretched  to the point that they now seek cooperative efforts. Adding additional responsibilities without increasing personnel and funds makes it hard for fire departments to satisfactorily respond to incidents and provide adequate equipment.

Some departments have sought solutions to these challenges. Among the trends being promoted by consultants and experts is the consolidation of fire departments in an effort to cut down spending, increase efficiency, reduce the duplication of service, improved recruitment efforts, and saving flow back to the taxpayers. Consolidation refers to two or more fire departments combining operationally, legally, and financially to establish a single unified department or company.

Dearborn Fire Department

The primary role of the Dearborn Fire Department is the safety of firefighter personnel and the community it serves. The Dearborn Fire Department serves the city of Dearborn and Melvindale community of approximate 110,000 people. The fire department has 128 uniformed staff and administrative personnel. The Dearborn Fire Department is responsible for providing fire protection for 27.3 square miles (City of Dearborn, n.d). It offers fire suppression services, fire prevention, paramedic level emergency medical care, fire investigation, hazardous material incidents, public education, and emergency management.

The Dearborn Fire Department responds to over 14,200 emergency incidents annually and maintains an insurance service office rating (ISO) of Class 3 (City of Dearborn, n.d). It has five engine companies, two ladder companies, one quint company, five Advanced Life Support ambulances and 128 personnel staffing at the stations in Dearborn and Melvindale. Advanced Life Support service enables firefighters to carry out more advanced life-saving treatments like medication administration, cardiac electrical therapy, IV fluids and intubation.  The department is well supported by local elected officials and taxpayers of the community.

The Taylor Fire Department

The Taylor Fire Department has the primary responsibility of responding to and mitigating emergencies by preventing and minimizing the effects of natural disasters, fire, hazardous and medical incidents. The department offers fire suppression, education, inspections, advanced emergence, medical response, hazard mitigation efforts, and fire prevention services to the citizens of Taylor community (City of Taylor, n.d). Taylor Fire Department is responsible for 24 square miles and a population of 100,000 people. Taylor Fire Department operates three centrally located stations, four engine companies, one tower truck, a command vehicle, and staff. The department responds to more than 5,000 calls annually (City of Taylor, n.d).

Taylor Fire Department has been facing financial challenges for years. It has responded to these challenges by laying off some firefighters, leaving the department at crossroads. Its main source of funds is the federal grant, which expires every two years (Ramirez, 2015). One of the solutions to address these budget deficits is consolidation.

Part 2

Benefits of Consolidations

The locals can benefit from consolidation in many ways. Consolidations in businesses and organizations are driven by the desire to save on costs and demand for high level service. The same applies to the fire departments, which seek to save on costs and improve efficiency. Archibald and Sleeper (2008) argue that consolidation is more financially and socially balanced by equitable distribution of services and taxes and better citizen participation

Reduced costs and increased services are the main benefits of consolidated systems. Consolidating two or more department leads to economies of scale, thereby reducing costs of operations. Savings generated by consolidation accrue from human resources and capital outlay. Safety at incident scenes and efficiency of operations benefits the personnel (Cermak, 2009). Efficient fire departments are able to provide better services. Consolidation will also improve use of resources in an effective manner. Consolidation can reduce redundancies in stations, apparatus, personnel, and equipment. This ensures increased fire protection.

Consolidation will increase insurance service office ratings. Regional consolidations offer more appropriate manpower distribution and enhanced insurance service office rating. It also ensures better use of on-call fire company equipment and personnel. Consolidation increases service levels to citizens. The greatest benefit of consolidation is on increased efficiency in service delivery. A consolidated system allows the fire departments to provide better services for the same amount of money (Cermak, 2009). This is in effect a cost saving.

The pooling together of resources allows the fire departments to cope with lack of equipment and personnel resources. Increase in pooled resources enables smaller departments to offer services that they might not have been capable of providing individually. The number of equipment, personnel, and vehicles available to response to call will increase significantly. This increase makes operations safer and efficient.

Consolidation may take years to complete. In addition, many challenges can make the process impossible, including loss of membership, turf wars, the belief that consolidation eliminates positions, and loss of identity. The primary reason consolidations fail is due to the unwillingness of community leadership to surrender local control as well as the feeling of loss of local autonomy (Page, 2004).

Part 3 Handling the Change

The consolidation will involve the Dearborn Fire Depart absorbing the Taylor Fire Department. Taylor’s equipment and staff would remain operating out in the current fire station in Taylor. In addition, firefighter seniority earned in Taylor will be preserved when deciding management decisions. For example, the Taylor fire chief will assume the deputy chief role in the new management arrangement. However, budgetary decisions and management would be made by Dearborn.

Dearborn and Taylor will enter in to a formal functional agreement that establishes mutual aid, combined trainings, and joint recruitment of specialized personnel.  The consolidation will ensure the two departments share resources and personnel for the benefit of the two communities. Taylor would witness a plummet in the city’s budget via combination of its fire department. In addition, the residents of both cities will enjoy quick access to emergency services.

The initial cost of consolidation might be higher but that will be phased out over a period of time. In the end, the community will benefit from the single fire department in terms of increased efficiencies, elimination of duplicated efforts, shared training center costs and high level service.


Archibald, R. & Sleeper, S. (2008). Government consolidation and economic development in Alleghany County and the city of Pittsburgh. Santa Monica, CA: Rand.

Cermak, J. C. (2009). Building Public/Private Partnerships to Support Regional Training Programs and Facilities (Executive Fire Officer Program efo44543). Emmitsburg, MD: United States Fire Administration

City of Dearborn. (n.d). Fire Department.

City of Taylor. (n.d). Fire Department.

Page, J.O. (2004). Merger in a micropolitian town: Consolidation can build a better stronger fire service. Fire-Rescue Magazine, 22(10), 119, 121

Ramirez, C.E. (2015). Taylor Fire Dept. at crossroads after layoffs. The Detroit News.

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