Livonia fire chief: Storm worst 'since the blackout'
Updated On: May 04, 2017
Not since 2003 has the Livonia Fire Department gone on as many runs as it did during Wednesday's storms.
Fire Chief Shadd Whitehead said several firefighters were recalled from previously scheduled training or being off Wednesday to come back to work and attempt to battle the high winds that plagued the city. A typical day will see a few dozen calls for service. Wednesday saw more than 170.
"This was one of the worst days we've seen since the blackout (in 2003)," he said. "It was very, very overwhelming."
The department battled about four or five structure fires as a result from electrical wires that had fallen from the winds, which reached as high as 68 mph at Detroit Metro Airport and Ann Arbor, according to the National Weather Service. Several homes caught fire in the Kimberly Oaks neighborhood, including at least one home in the 14000 block of Westmore fire officials say is a total loss.
Fire Marshal Keith Bo said in addition to the two homes, the department responded to two shed fires and a barn fire. He said it was the busiest day he's seen at the department, and he's been with it for more than 20 years.
"It's got to be a record for our city," he said of the number of runs made by firefighters.
With DTE Energy being so overwhelmed with calls and service notices across the region — the company noted Wednesday's weather caused the biggest outage in the company's history at more than 800,000 customers losing power — they were not able to switch power off to several lines, leaving firefighters helpless to battle electrical-based blazes for nearly three hours.
"We're not used to that. We're used to being aggressive," Whitehead said. "It was so frustrating that they couldn't be more aggressive."
Power still out
Several areas of Livonia remained without electricity Thursday afternoon, including several intersections such as Seven Mile and Middlebelt. Several thousand customers in the city remained without power Thursday afternoon, and DTE Energy has said they hope to have 90 percent of their customers in the southeast Michigan back online by Sunday evening.
Lines remain down in several parts of town. Whitehead said it is important pedestrians stay away from any line that's down, even if they don't think it is an electrical line.
"During storms like this, you treat any type of line as being an electrical line," he said. "Just stay away from it and treat it as it's energized."
The Jack E. Kirksey Recreation Center, located at 15100 Hubbard, is available to city residents who are in need of shelter, especially as cold weather approaches the region.
“Our Recreation Center has available cots, hot showers and other facilities that can provide short-term refuge for those who may need it,” said Mayor Dennis Wright.
Residents who need help must arrive at the center before 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, 6 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in order to arrange for staffing before closing time. The Recreation Center can also be reached at 734-466-2900. Note the recreation areas of the facility are off-limits for emergency shelter users.
Because of the amount of debris left from the storm, the city will begin its branch chipper service and yard waste collection a few weeks earlier than usual. Branches that are four feet or longer and up to four inches maximum diameter should be stacked as close to the road as possible with all of the cut ends facing the road. Automatic chipper service begins Monday across the city.
The city's department of public works will also provide a special service through March 24 to collect cut-up logs from downed trees. Logs should be stacked by the street. Public Service needs to be contacted for this special service and can be reached at 734-466-2655 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Firefighters pour water on the burning home Wednesday, but their efforts are hampered by high winds and arcing power lines.