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Livonia Spree

Sparky The Fire Dog
     
Fire department has humble beginnings
Posted On: May 15, 2012

Following are some key developments in the history of the Livonia Fire Department, according to Al Judge's book, Livonia Fire Rescue “A Living History.”

  • Nov. 1, 1941 — Livonia's first-ever fire truck, a 1941 Dodge/General 500 GPM pumper costing about $5,000, is delivered. The truck's first quarters are the Roberts gas station at Plymouth and Merriman roads. The first run occurs on Dec. 7, 1941, the same day Pearl Harbor is bombed. All firefighters are volunteers. Calvin Roberts, the gas station owner, is named the first chief because he agreed to house the truck. Livonia is still a township.
  • 1945 — Livonia's first fire station is built adjacent to Roberts' gas station. It serves the entire 36 square miles of Livonia Township.
  • 1947 — Livonia's first full-time firefighter is hired.
  • 1948 — Livonia's second fire station is built at Seven Mile and Middlebelt roads. A second piece of apparatus is also purchased, a 1948 International/John Bean 500 GPM high pressure pumper.
  • 1950 — Livonia becomes a city.
  • Feb. 29, 1952 — An explosion and fire destroy one-third of the uncompleted Ford Motor Co. tank plant. Firefighters from five neighboring communities join the Livonia Fire Department in battling the blaze, but little can be done. No water mains had yet been piped to the plant, and the nearest fire hydrant was nearly a mile away. Blame was placed on oil stoves used to warm construction workers.
  • Aug. 12, 1953 — Fire destroys the Hydra-Matic plant operated by the Detroit Transmission Division of GM, killing six and injuring 15. Damages were estimated at $80 million. It started when outside construction workers using an oxyacetylene cutting torch ignited a conveyer drip pan containing a highly flammable liquid used as a rust inhibitor for transmission parts. Hand-held extinguishers almost had the fire out until they ran dry; then the fire quickly spread throughout the 1.5 million square foot plant. As the largest industrial fire in history at that time, the fire served as a wake-up call to American manufacturers and fire safety standards were significantly improved.
  • 1954 — The fire department has 32 full-time firefighters,
  • 1955 — The fire department responds to 515 alarms, most of them fire-related. Today, it responds to 8,500, the majority being medical runs.
  • 1971 — The fire department begins transporting patients to hospitals, but private ambulances remain the primary transport.
  • 1972 — Roberts retires as chief after 29 years, hand-picking his replacement, John Bunk, who had come up through the ranks of the department. Shadd Whitehead, the current chief, is the department's seventh.
  • 1980 — The fire department begins transporting all patients to hospitals.
  • April 17, 1983 — The Livonia Fire Department loses its only member ever in the official line of duty. Gary Kreski, responding with other firefighters to a structure fire at Madison Electric Co., 15378 Middlebelt Road, dies from his injuries after the roof caves in.
  • 1986 — The Livonia Fire Department plays a critical role in the development of the Western Wayne County Hazardous Materials Response Team.
  • February 1999 — The Livonia Fire Department begins advanced life support service.
  • 2006 — The Livonia Fire Department is instrumental in forming the Western Wayne County Urban Search and Rescue Team to assist victims trapped in confined spaces due to natural disasters, building collapses, traffic accidents and other causes.
  • 2011 — The fire department has 89 full-time personnel, five fire stations and a fire headquarters, five pumpers, five squads, a heavy rescue, tower ladder, and several support vehicles for fire prevention, training and the like. There are also reserve apparatus, technical rescue, a boat and assorted trailers and vehicles for hazmat and search and rescue operations.

     
IAFF Local 1164
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