Firefighters Union not on board with Heights takeover of Muskegon Fire Department

Jun 1, 2018

The Muskegon Fire Department may soon be a thing of the past. City officials are considering a proposal that would hand over firefighting responsibilities to the Muskegon Heights Fire Department.

Under the proposal, The City of Muskegon would maintain the buildings and equipment the Muskegon Fire Department uses, but would terminate local 370 and its firefighters, and outsource the duties of the fire department to Muskegon Heights. Muskegon Heights City Manager Jake Eckholm says the proposal is a win/win for both municipalities.

“As far as why it’s a good thing, better fire service for a more competitive rate for the tax payer is a positive thing,” Eckholm said. “So from our perspective it’s a good opportunity for collaboration, it can be a revenue savor for Muskegon and a revenue generator for the city of Muskegon Heights.”

However, the Muskegon Professional Firefighters Union is not on board with idea. President Chris Drake says the Heights Fire Department is unqualified to handle the volume of calls the Muskegon Fire Department gets. Especially when it comes to Lakeshore emergencies.

“We run approximately 4800 calls a year. Muskegon Heights runs about 1500,” Drake said. “We provide water rescue because we are the only dive rescue team in the county. If they start providing fire and rescue services to the city of Muskegon, they are not going to have divers. They are not going to have the water rescue service that we have.”

Eckholm balks at the idea that safety is an issue. 

“We would never put together a proposal that would endanger anybody. First and foremost it needs to be understood the intention from the city of Muskegon Heights is to hire a good number of those City of Muskegon firefighters,” Eckholm says. “In the event that that is not possible, those people were trained, and there is no reason that we can’t train people in the same capacity.”

Muskegon Heights will present the proposal to its City Commission on Monday evening.