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Northern lower fire departments are waiting months for new equipment

Matt C.

Fire departments and emergency service providers in the northern lower peninsula are having trouble acquiring new equipment and supplies.

The long wait times are being attributed to supply chain disruptions and labor shortages in both international and domestic supply chains.

A representative from told WCMU that almost all the materials needed to manufacture fire hoses is taking at least 20 weeks to fulfil.

Alpena Charter Township Fire Chief Mark Hansen said a new fire hose from his supplier is taking at least 12 weeks to be delivered. Hansen added the suppliers are experiencing a brass shortage for manufacturing the nozzles.

Before the pandemic, many of the orders fire stations placed for things like fire hoses could be fulfilled within 1-2 weeks and most orders took less than a month.

Additionally, Hansen has to go to his township board for any orders over $500, adding more time to getting supplies into the fire station.

In order to comply with fire equipment regulations, Hansen ordered new turnout gear for his five full-time firefighters on staff. He placed the order in November 2021 and is not expected to be delivered until December 2022.

“We've had issues fulfilling orders,” said Jacob Steichen, a firefighter with the Traverse City Fire Department and the station’s local union President. He said his department is also experiencing delays in new fire suits, specifically the pants needed when fighting fires.

Steichen said “we have a backlog of eight months right now” for pants.

Steichen’s department also offers emergency medical services. And the modern stretchers they use on calls are no longer manually operated and require specific batteries.

“And we have old batteries that are failing on us because they're not holding charges,” said Steichen. “And we just got to use them because the backlog on those batteries in particular is so far back.”

Steichen mentioned that in times like this, departments are having to band together to help each other out. This is a common practice in firefighting and emergency services due to the common practice known as “mutual aid,” an agreement between departments to help one another if an emergency is too big for one department to handle.

“I think a lot of fire service members and fire departments and chiefs, like, we're a very interconnected group,” said Steichen. “There's always that lean on your neighbor when you're in need. That's going on more than anybody's comfortable with right now.”

Rick Brewer has been news director at WCMU since February 2024.