Aging Detroit Fire Department welcomes news of $24M grant

Aging Detroit Fire Department welcomes news of $24M federal grant

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(WJBK) -

The Detroit Fire Department is getting a major boost - a $24 million federal grant, to be exactly. The money will be used to hire 150 additional firefighters.

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin made the announcement Wednesday.

Fox 2's Ron Savage talks with some current Detroit firefighters, who say the average age among the workers is 45 years old.

VIDEO: Click on the video player above to hear from firefighters in Savage's report, or read the transcript below


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A hot fire on a frigid evening - it's backbreaking work.  Detroit Fire has some of the oldest firefighter's in the nation. The average age of a Detroit Firefighter is 45 years old.

"Our manpower is actually aging very rapidly lately," Theodore Copely tells Fox 2's Ron Savage.

With air packs in full gear carrying axes and Haligan tools, a firefighter can easily have 70 pounds of gear on.  You'll be expected to both set up and climb a ladder - and then perform all out until the fire's out. It's a brutal job for anyone, but especially for a department with an average age of 45.

"I'm 38 years old and I'm considered one of the younger ones on the whole department. I think there's only five or six now, actual firefighters, under the age of thirty," Copely says.

So it's a huge sigh of relief as word comes down from Washington D.C. Detroit firefighters are about to get reinforcements to the front line. FEMA and Homeland Security are helping to coordinate a federal grant for Detroit to hire 150 young, eager firefighters.

"As it is right now the average of a Detroit firefighter is only 45 years old with 18 years of service. There's only one other department in the country that even comes close to that. This will definitely put young people, healthy people, strong people on our reach to do the job they need to do," Dan McNamara of the Detroit Firefighter's Union says.

It's not all peaches and cream. As we check Engine 27 here on Fort Street in southwest Detroit, two rolling glass bay doors won't work. Broken Springs. And the ladder truck?  Leaking water. But the Federal grant will help add 150 new firefighters. After background checks and the fire training academy these 150 could see their first fire before next summer.

"That's an awesome Thanksgiving gift and that's something that we're definitely looking forward to. We desperately need the help in this city as far as manpower," Copely says.

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