Hoarder Fires

inside_a_hoarders_640_12Have you watched an episode of that TV program, “Hoarders”?  These situations create very hazardous conditions for the people who live there which includes the potential for a fire.  If there is a fire, the responding firefighters are also endangered by these conditions.   These extreme “collectors” pile things, papers, magazines, furniture, clothing, food, in high stacks that create a literal maze with narrow walkways.  Often the hoarders are older folks suffering from a mental disorder.  When a fire occurs search and rescue becomes much more difficult because the victims can be overcome by smoke and fumes before they can get out, so they must be rescued and carried out through the mess in very dangerous conditions.   Unlike commercial buildings where businesses must undergo periodic fire inspections, residences have no inspection requirements so these conditions can go unseen for many years.  When firefighters respond to a home, they can’t know what to expect at a home occupied by a hoarder.

Firefighters and their command officers anticipate the “fuel load” of a house meaning what couches, beds and other furnishings do under fire conditions.  Today’s furnishings and building materials have increased the danger to firefighters because more of the materials have a petroleum base and that increases the speed and heat released by the fire.  When the home as 3 or 4 times the amount of normal furnishings, there is a radical increase in the danger and completely changes the conditions firefighters must face in extinguishing the fire.  Windows and exits can be blocked and long burn times increase the potential for building collapse.

If you or someone in your life is a hoarder, don’t ignore the problem.  Click here for some information that may help.




USA TODAY: Marijuana poses more risks than many realize


Marijuana poses more risks than many realize

Doctors say they’re increasingly fielding questions about the safety of marijuana, as use of the drug rises and more communities consider legalizing it. Colorado and Washington state have legalized recreational marijuana, and medical use is allowed in 21 states and Washington, D.C. USA TODAY’s Liz Szabo talked to experts about what scientists know and don’t know about marijuana’s risks and benefits. Q. How common is marijuana use? A. About 12% of people of Americans over age 12 have used it in the past year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Use of marijuana among high school students has been increasing since the 1990s. If current trends continue, marijuana use among high school seniors could soon become more common than cigarette smoking, says Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


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Don’t Worry-Our Ladders Are Safe

I always listen to a radio news channel first thing every morning.  I’m interested in what has happened overnight and how that might play into my upcoming day.  An important story caught my attention this morning:

Fire Fighters Fall 40 feet when bucket drops

The bucket on an aerial ladder failed and dropped 3 firefighters during a training exercise in Georgia.  I found that very concerning since we have 3 trucks with aerial ladders that are in use frequently.  I knew that we had conducted our annual ladder testing on June 17th so I was somewhat confident that we were where we should be.  The City has a huge investment in equipment for the Fire Department and it is our responsibility to maintain it and make sure it is ready when needed and safe for our firefighters to use.

The fire department has over 400 feet of ground ladders and over 225 feet of aerial  ladders which were tested. Along with the annual testing this year, the three aerial trucks had a more  intense five year test. This testing covered structural integrity, heat exposure, and operational  performance. Preventative maintenance on top of the priority  list to extend the life of the equipment and to assure the safety of our firefighters.

The manufacturer of the failed ladders, Sutphen, has issued an alert to take their ladders out of service until they can be inspected since the Georgia incident closely followed a similar incident in Arizona.  In talking with Assistant Chief Macias today, I was relieved to learn that our ladders are not Sutphen ladders.

Example of what can happen.

Example of what can happen.

One less thing to worry about….. 

Mental illness cases swamp criminal justice system

I’ve written about it many times before.  But something must be done.  We are not different from other parts of the country.  At an event this spring Sheriff Bouchard made the statement that about 1/3 of the population of the jail requires some form of mental health treatment.   Even I was shocked at that large number.

USA Today did an excellent story on this national problem.

Mental illness cases swamp criminal justice system.

Traffic Roundabouts

We are seeing more and more roundabouts in place of signalized intersections.  While we don’t yet have one  in Auburn Hills, we have some in the planning stages.   I know they are new here but are used in many other areas of the country and internationally with success.  It is just new to us.  Here is a great video from the Michigan Department of Transportation with some information on how to use roundabouts.


Are you a doubter?  Do you doubt that roundabouts carry traffic more efficiently than 4 way stops?  Here is another video just for you.

Yipee! Baldwin Road is Getting Fixed!

I agree that the Baldwin Road has gotten terrible over the winter.  At last it is on the schedule for some serious work.  road-work


The Road Commission for Oakland County has announced the start of repairs to Baldwin Road between Great Lakes Crossings mall and Brown Road.  The road will stay open with at least one lane each direction at all times.

Project 1 which starts in July replaces 50% of the concrete between Great Lakes Crossings mall to just south of I-75.  It will be completed by the end of September approximately.

The second half will begin in September and be completed in November.  It is from just south of I-75 to just north of Brown Road.

Here is the news release.

Saving the Taxpayer’s Dollars

wpid-20140708_122509.jpgwpid-20140708_102826.jpgOne thing we pride ourselves on here in Emergency Services is how careful we are with the taxpayer’s dollars.  We are conscious all the time how we are using the dollars given to us by the taxpayers to provide the best possible services to the community.

We are constantly looking for ways to save a few bucks while still providing our employees with the best equipment and training to do the best possible job.  When the Police and Fire Departments were combined at the administration level in 2012, one of our most important missions was to find cost savings and efficiency wherever possible. We take that seriously.  The Department of Emergency Services in our 2014 budget should be running at 50% of our budget allocation for the year but we are running at 41% for the first half of the year.

The City Finance Director, Gary Barnes, started an annual award among the departments to bring a little friendly competition to the departments in how budgets are managed.

This year, for the 2nd year in a row, Deputy Director Jim Manning of Emergency Services/Fire was the winner of one of the 2013 Budget Cups for departments over $1M with a 12.3% savings.  This is calculated as savings over the budget allocation for the department.  He also won in 2012 with a whopping 22.7% savings in the Fire Department.

We have other winners in the past:

For cost savings over budget allocation:  Lt. Cas Miarka for Police Patrol budget at 6% in 2011 and in 2010 for Police Technical Services at 27.6%

For budgeting accuracy, which is calculated as ending the budget year expending as closely as possible (but not going over) to the budget allocation:

Lt Hardesty in Police Communications hit the budget at 101% in 2011

Lt Miarka in Police Patrol hit it at 96% in 2012.

Our command personnel move around among the divisions of the department to learn each function and as part of that, they are responsible to operate the budget in their current area of responsibility.  We see ourselves as a team brought together to produce an outcome of value for the citizens.  No one division of our department operates alone–there are lots of interlinked and moving parts.  What makes this challenging is that budgets are forecast 6 months in advance and throughout the fiscal year we must deal with constantly changing conditions while still achieving the goals set for us by the City Council and the goals we set for ourselves.

Congratulations to all of the other city departments who were budget cup winners as well.

Shoe trick will prevent child deaths in hot cars

It is summer again and tragically children are left in hot cars, forgotten by caregivers until too late.  I know that life can get hurried and harried but here is an easy trick to help you to remember to check your car before you get out to make sure you haven’t forgotten someone important.

Shoe trick will prevent child deaths in hot cars.

Good Guys Win One

Last night I was still in my office when I heard the report of a robbery being dispatched-something that doesn’t happen with any frequency here.   Almost immediately Officer Joel Foreman reported that he had picked up the suspect vehicle leaving the scene of the robbery.  He attempted to stop the car but the driver ignored the lights and continued to drive, ultimately heading toward Great Lakes Crossings mall.  The robbery occurred at the BP gas station across from the Palace.  At one point, the suspect’s vehicle struck Sgt. Groehn’s vehicle trying to get away.  Despite the efforts of Sergeant Steve Groehn and his team of officers from our department, the Sheriff’s Office and Lake Angelus, the suspect managed to get the car parked in the mall parking lot and escaped on foot.   Officers found the car quickly and worked with mall security to pin down the area looking for the suspect.  Dispatch disseminated information through the mall merchants and ultimately we got a call from one of them with important information and then more calls from helpful  citizens helping us locate the suspect as he was trying to leave the area on foot after he had changed his appearance.

As the woman in this video says, a robbery here is pretty rare.  Great Lakes Crossings is a very safe place.  We appreciate the help and support we get from this community to solve crimes and this was a perfect example.

The suspect is currently in custody, will be charged today and go before a judge this afternoon.


First Day of His New Life

image001Yesterday was Detective Scott Edwards’ last day.  We had a small open house for him at the station so people would have a chance to say good bye.  His former partner, Deputy Director Thom Hardesty presented him with a shadow box 20140630_150051containing his badges, awards and other mementos of his career.  Many, many of our former employees came in to say hello and wish him well.

Scott has been a member of this department for 25 years.  Most of that was as a detective.  He was a detective when I got here 20 years ago.  He came to us after spending a few years at Bloomfield Township Police.

Scott is well known for his work ethic. He is a guy ready to work whenever he is needed.   Friday afternoon he was out trying to locate just one more bad guy for one more interview.  Just gotta close that last case.

Scott was well known and respected among the local community of investigators.  He was in demand from other departments for his high skill level.  On Thanksgiving a few years ago, I recall a case where a local department requested his help on a homicide case.  They asked us to come and interrogate one of the suspects who was in custody to see if we couldn’t make another case we had against this same person, unrelated to the homicide.  Scott ended up with enough admissions to make the homicide case.

He is the senior member of the MCAT our major case team that recently solved an attempt homicide case at a residence in Bloomfield Hills where the resident was shot through his front door.  Other departments want to assign their junior investigators to Scott to learn some of his techniques.  He is well known as an exceptional interviewer/interrogator.  Investigation is a a highly developed skill that takes years to develop.  It isn’t something you can learn by going to a training class–it is years of experience to learn the best strategies and technique, particularly in interview/interrogation.  Not everyone is cut out to be a detective.  It takes a dogged determination, strong curiosity and an almost scary intuition about people.  Since everyone watches TV and movie detectives, many people think that it is simple and easy to be an investigator.  Not so. In Scott’s case, although we have other very capable detectives, his particular skills will be missed.  The person who takes his spot will have a high bar to reach.

He made some brief comments to the group saying that he had decided that now was the right time for him to go.  He hoped he made the right choice but he expressed how much he had loved this work.  He wasn’t totally sure what was next although he planned to enjoy the rest of the summer.  Someone said he and his wife had purchased a motor home so it sounds like some traveling is on the agenda.  He’s been clearing out his workspace for the last few weeks and trying to disengage but I think it may be somewhat of a challenge to adjust.  He seems to be ready to give it a shot.

Judging by the people who came to wish him well, he will clearly be missed by members of our department and the community.

Thanks, Scott, for everything and good luck.


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