Traverse City Fire Department Closes Station for Staff Shortage

"It's something we don’t like to do, and it definitely causes a delay in our response." - Capt. Steve Ball

For the second time in as many weeks, the Traverse City Fire Department has closed Station 2 due to staffing shortages. The TCFD made the decision to close down Station 2 for the day on Thursday. It’s a decision they don’t take lightly – and they know it’s going to affect how they can respond in emergencies.

Tcfd 1The doors are closed at Station 2 on Traverse City’s east side. The one firefighter there moved downtown to help cover Station 1. Capt. Steve Ball acknowledges, “There will be a delay in service. We’re trying to remedy that so it’s not long-term. But at the end of the day we just don’t have enough firefighters to operate effectively.”  Capt. Ball says it could delay response times by 10 minutes or more to certain parts of the city. Construction on West Front Street and Garfield Avenue cuts off major routes of travel. Tcfd Closed

Even with the extra man moved to Station 1, there are only four firefighters on duty in all of Traverse City on Thursday. Capt. Ball says, “There’s definitely a need for more firefighters on duty. Our chief has recognized that need and proposed that city management make (changes) – with the recent budget.”

City Manager Marty Colburn says, “Our stations still are manned in the sense that we have staffing available, it’s just a matter of where they may place the vehicle. We have from time to time people that may be off for training or ill or whatever. Often times we can re-fill or backfill the positions. Also what we have on staff is additional firefighters that are available. They often do other tasks as far as inspections and code reviews and things of that nature.”

Capt. Ball says while staff shortages are becoming more and more typical in the industry, here in Traverse City it’s about more than just that. They need approval to get more firefighters added to the payroll. “There is a proposal by the chief to hire three additional firefighters. That certainly would help with staffing levels.”

Tcfd 3“I’ve been here 20 years and I’ve never seen staffing levels this low. We’re running the same staffing levels we ran in the 1970’s here in Traverse City,” Capt. Ball says.

The City Manager says they’re aware of the shortages, and they’re working to address the problem. “We take a look every year at the budget process for where we can fill the most appropriate place. In recent years we have filled two firefighter positions,” Colburn says. “We have a good strong cadre of firefighters and command staff. This year we’re working on a study to look at more of a holistic approach, not just of staffing but of facilities and equipment as well.”Tcfd 2

Capt. Ball adds, “We’d like the public to know we’re doing everything we can to meet those standards but it’s increasingly getting harder and harder.” Capt. Ball says closing Station 2 only happens when all other options are exhausted.