Correction Appended: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the reason for the creation of a fire station on North Campus. It was created to better serve the area.
While Ann Arbor firefighters of Local 693 respond to fire emergencies on campus, the University doesn’t plan to extend further financial support to the department, which is facing severe budget cuts.
Last month, Ann Arbor firefighters postponed potential layoffs by taking a 4-percent pay cut. However, the city is now considering laying off 19 firefighters when a new contract is set in July. The changes have the potential to impact fire safety on campus, and the fire department may turn to the University for support.
Though Local 693 is strapped for funds, University officials say they will not create a firefighting unit on campus even though the University has its own police force.
According to University Police spokeswoman Diane Brown, the University created the Department of Public Safety because city police were struggling to respond quickly to campus calls. In addition, DPS officers are trained specially to respond to campus-specific crimes like residence hall incidents and large University events.
Unlike DPS officers, University officials don’t believe firefighters need specialized training to serve campus. Brown said the five fire stations in Ann Arbor are located close to the University and have had no recent history of delayed response to calls.
Matt Schroeder, president of Local 693’s union, said instead of creating a separate fire team, the University and the Ann Arbor Fire Department “work in cooperation.”
According to Brown, the University created and maintains Ann Arbor Fire Station 5, located on North Campus, to better serve the area.
In 2004, the University also purchased a $300,000 fire truck for Local 693, according to University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald.
In addition, the fire department also receives money from the state government, though the funding is decreasing and the payments haven’t been made in full for several years, according to Schroeder.
Because the department is under financial pressures, Schroeder said the union would like to partner with the University in a “cooperative agreement” to improve safety.
At a meeting with the University Board of Regents in September, the union expressed concern that layoffs could impact student safety. The presentation was part of what Schroeder called an “ongoing conversation” about how the University and fire department interact.
Though an official request has not been made, Schroeder said the union would like to see the University pay for a percentage of the fire department’s workforce.
Fitzgerald said he is aware of staffing concerns but did not know of any monetary requests. He said that a request for funds must come from the city, not the union, in order for it to be considered.
But cooperation between the University and Local 693 extends beyond monetary support.
Brown said the University tries to reduce the need for firefighters responding to non-fire emergencies on campus by providing services usually expected of a fire department.
DPS, for example, monitors buildings to reduce fire hazards. Brown said in addition the University created its own unit — part of the Occupational Safety and Environmental Health department — to respond to the University’s hazardous materials emergencies.
Brown said that firefighters are also invited to tour new and renovated campus buildings before they open to the public so they can become familiar with the layout. She cited firefighters’ examination of the University of Michigan Museum of Art before it opened last year.
Brown and Fitzgerald agreed that the University and the Ann Arbor Fire Department have a good relationship. Fitzgerald said the University is “very supportive and appreciative” of Local 693.