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Dearborn Heights Fire Department History

 

Little is known about the method fires were fought in the Township of Dearborn prior to August of 1949. At that time the Township Hall was located on Michigan Avenue, one block west of John Daly Road.  The Township consisted of areas of Dearborn and Inkster Township, now the City of Inkster.  Fire trucks of some kind did respond out of that location, although exactly who operated them or for what length of time is not clear.  The two story Michigan Ave. location was equipped with a living quarters and a fire pole for full time Firefighters.  Not much is known about why this early plan to have a full-time force was abandoned but with the Township boundaries extending from Joy Road to Van Born Road and Southfield Road to Inkster Road it became apparent that a fire station located in the center of the Township was not going to provide the best possible fire protection for all the Township residents.  A contract was entered into with the City of Dearborn to provide fire service to the Township of Dearborn.  This also proved to be ineffective as many a foundation was saved and many a cornfield was lost.

Some time in early 1949 the City of Dearborn notified Township supervisors that as of August 1st, 1949, the City of Dearborn would no longer provide fire protection for the Township.  Therefore, the Township purchased a used fire truck from the City of Southfield and was loaned an old Civil Defense fire truck from the U.S. Government and formed the Dearborn Township Volunteer Fire Department.  Edward McElhone was appointed as the first Fire Chief.  Retired Fire Chief Vern Dorlan was hired to head up an extensive training program that would certify the 25 volunteer civilian force for the newly formed organization.

The south-end fire truck would be housed in a garage at a service station owned by Ray Hodges, located at the corner of Lehigh and Telegraph.  The north-end fire station was located at 6544 Telegraph, a garage bay that was rented from Tony Lajavick's auto repair.  These businesses were also where the owners and their families resided.  The Township entered into an agreement with these business owners whereby they would answer the fire emergency phones 24 hours a day, set off a siren on the roof of each building to alert the Volunteers and drive the fire trucks to the scene of the emergency.  In the south-end, Volunteer Firefighters responded to the gas station and were driven to the scene by Mr. Hodges.  The north-end of the Township had a different response procedure.  At this time, the north-end of the Township was almost all farmland and homes were very spread out.  This made it more practical to have the Volunteers respond to the scene of the emergency rather than to the station.  The trucks carried no radios at this time and the only communication that was used after the trucks were dispatched was residential telephones.  Some years later the Wayne County Sheriff's Department acquired radios for the Fire Department to utilize.  The south-end of the city was part residential, part farmland and part swamp, but was where the majority of the Township's citizens resided.  Because the south-end was more densely populated and the fact that all calls for fire service came to Ray Hodges south-end gas station, it was decided that the south-end fire station would be recognized as Station #1.  The north-end fire station was therefore recognized as Station #2.

The 1950's saw many changes in the Dearborn Township Fire Department.  It marked the beginning of the Dearborn Township Fire Commission.  In 1953 Ed Gorecki was appointed the second Fire Chief and the arrangement with the service station owners was becoming strained.  It was decided that a new method of providing fire service would be investigated.  New stations were to be built which would house the fire trucks, a caretaker and his family.  This marks the era of the full-time firefighter in Dearborn Township and the introduction of the IAFF Local 1355 as the representing union of the full-time members of the organization.  Station #1 would be built at the intersection of Telegraph and Hanover.  James Ryan and his family manned this station as a live-in caretaker.  Ryan eventually became the Departments fourth Fire Chief.   Station #2 would be a bit more challenging to locate. For a short time, Station #2 was a lean-to along side of Wayne Parks home on Lafayette.  Mr. Parks eventually became the caretaker for the north-end fire station, which was relocated on the corner of Drexel and George, deep in the heart of a residential area.  The new station was constructed to blend in with the residential homes in the neighborhood.  Shortly after the construction of Station #2, the Department was augmented with additional full-time Firefighters to respond out of this station 24 hours a day.  In time, the caretaker program was phased out and the Department consisted of a small full-time force supported by a larger Volunteer group to respond to emergencies in the Township.

In the late 1950's, Harry Martin was appointed as the third Fire Chief of the Dearborn Township Fire Department.  Chief Martin equipped both stations and apparatus with radios for the first time.  The first base radio was located at Station #1 and eventually Station #2 was provided a base radio.  Station #2 was designated as Headquarters at that time and has remained so ever since.

In 1963 the Township experienced growing pains and so did the Fire Department.  Dearborn Township became the City of Dearborn Heights and the Fire Department hired more full-time Firefighters to compliment the Volunteer force. Voran Funeral Home provided ambulance service to the community at this time, which was prior to the Fire Department providing EMS service.  Dearborn Heights was one of the first suburban fire departments to take the fire service in a new direction with the addition of the ambulance service in the mid 1960's.  This greatly improved the standard of living in the city and increased the need for additional manpower as the city became increasingly more populated.  In the late 1960's, Erskin Turner was promoted to the departments fifth Fire Chief and oversaw the construction of the new fire station located at the intersection of Telegraph and Annapolis in 1973.  During this period, Station #2 was nearly doubled in size in order to house two newly purchased Mack fire trucks.

In the mid 1970's, Gordon Warren was promoted from the rank of Fire Marshal to the departments sixth Fire Chief.  Over the years, new apparatus and firefighters were added as the department grew.  In the 1980's, Errol Lewis became the departments seventh Fire Chief and was also promoted from the position of Fire Marshal.  Under the leadership of Chief Lewis, the department purchased state of the art fire apparatus, introduced the department to the computer age, and increased the level of EMS service from Basic to Limited Advanced Life Support.  The departments SOP's were standardized and fire service training became a priority.

James Langlois succeeded Chief Lewis as the departments eighth Fire Chief.  Chief Langlois was promoted from the rank of Deputy Chief and was successful in improving the departments EMS service by instituting Advanced Life Support service in the city in 1997.  At this time, it was viewed that the remaining Volunteer force was considered a liability and Chief Langlois abolished the once prevalent Volunteer program.  Chief Langlois was very instrumental in developing plans for a new north-end Fire Headquarters Station.  The untimely and unfortunate death of Chief Langlois left the task of completing the new Fire Station to Glen Barnett, the departments ninth Fire Chief.  In 1999, Dearborn Heights opened the doors to a new state of the art Fire Headquarters located at 1999 N. Beech Daly.  Barnett retired in 2002 and the Fire Chief position had been left vacant due to budgetary constraints until October of 2005 when Chief Andrew Gurka attained that position from the rank of Fire Marshal.  Our current and the eleventh chief of the Dearborn Heights Fire Department is Chief David Brogan.