LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Earlier this month, 6 News told you about a staffing shortage impacting the Lansing Fire Department. Now, to solve this statewide issue, the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union wants lawmakers to help by passing new legislation.
“Here in Michigan, we are about 50 firefighters per 100,000 residents, and the rest of the states are 101 or more, so we are significantly understaffed,” said Matthew Sahr, President of MPFFU.
Sahr said across the state, fire stations are understaffed, causing firefighters to work crazy hours to pick up the slack. “When you’re talking about 2,912 hours [per year] already that you’re scheduled in the building, that’s 900 hours more than the general public; that is just a lot of time,” Sahr said. “So, to add any more to that, it can be stressful for not only your family but you.”
To try to solve the problem, the union is asking lawmakers to pass House Bill 4688. It would allow the union to discuss staffing shortages when bargaining with fire stations.
“What that does, it allows us to have a conversation in regards to what is an adequate amount of firefighters. It’s doesn’t mandate anything; it still allows for, obviously, local control,” Sahr said.
But it’s not just firefighters that the stations need. Sahr said Michigan is also short about 500-1,000 paramedics statewide. To address the issue, the union is urging lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow them to train paramedics more quickly and at more locations. “In the past, you could get through the paramedic program in around eight months to a year if you were doing academy-style,” Sahr said. “Now, you’re 18-24 months.”
The union is set to meet with lawmakers to discuss these bills. If passed, Sahr said, this will not only increase safety in our communities but improve the lives of our firefighters.