GLADSTONE - The City of Gladstone may be a safer place thanks to an automatic aid agreement with Escanaba Township for firefighting services approved by the commission Monday night.
The agreement was based on an existing mutual aid agreement that the city maintains with other area firefighting units including Escanaba Township, other surrounding townships, and the City of Escanaba.
However, unlike the existing mutual aid agreement, which allows Gladstone Public Safety firefighters to request aid from other departments as needed, the new agreement identifies specific scenarios where Escanaba Township firefighters would automatically be requested at the scene of a fire in Gladstone.
"This agreement is kind of the next step in the mutual cooperation that's taking place between the City of Gladstone and Escanaba Township," said Gladstone Public Safety Director Paul Geyer.
The partnership between the two municipalities has been under discussion since last October when the city deeded the township two acres located in the northeastern corner of Fernwood Cemetery for the construction of the new John Besse Fire Station.
The property had been owned by the city despite being located within the township limits.
"They're still finishing up on it, but it's just about completed," said Geyer of the new fire station, which will be the second fire station within Escanaba Township.
Under the agreement the Escanaba Township Fire Department will automatically be dispatched to structure fires within the city limits of Gladstone.
Firefighters from the city will be dispatched to Escanaba Township to cover the the area east of O.85 Drive including the Lake Bluff subdivision, the area of Rivers 22nd Road, and the area of the township north along M-35 including Chaison 23.5 Drive.
"This agreement is not proposed to replace our current mutual aid agreement; it's proposed to enhance it between our two entities," said Geyer. "It's not designed for a small grass fire or a car fire or any such things like that. It's designed for those working structure fires that are really intensive in terms of needs of equipment and in terms of needs of personnel."
The Escanaba Township Fire Department recently acquired a new fire truck which the city will also have access to in the case of a fire. Escanaba Township will also have access to the city's fire trucks, and both departments will spend time training together.
Following the approval of the agreement in Escanaba Township, the two departments will begin working with Delta County Central Dispatch to ensure both departments are dispatched to fires located within the shared area.
"You guys are planning to do more before this is implemented anyways," Commissioner Matt Gay told Geyer during the meeting. "You need to know the ground rules, and this is what that is."
Geyer admitted both departments have different needs and there there would be a learning curve.
He added there were many benefits to the agreement including the use of additional equipment, added personnel, and possible changes to the ISO ratings used to set insurance rates.
"We've put a lot of thought into this but we also know that we're going to, in some respects, learn as we go in terms of how we're going to train together; how we're going to use each piece of apparatus in terms of different calls," he said.
Just like under the mutual aid agreements that the city shares with the other fire departments, there is no penalty for either department if that department choses to withdraw aid or fails to respond to a request. This provision protects the city from losing all of it's fire protection in the case of a natural disaster or other scenario where firefighters are needed in both locations.
"Our first and primary responsibility would be this community," said Geyer.