City says ransacked fire station wasn’t secured because of miscommunication

It’s like clockwork.

A building in Detroit is abandoned, and within days thieves steal everything of value – copper plumbing, wiring, fixtures and pipes. Walls are torn up; water gushes from broken pipes; windows are smashed and the frames stolen.

So it seemed incredibly irresponsible of the Detroit Fire Department to fail to secure one of its temporarily closed fire stations on the city’s west side – after break-ins at the Engine 49 building were reported more than a month ago.

It wasn’t intentional, Fire Commissioner Don Austin told Motor City Muckraker, which discovered the building was broken into, ransacked and flooded after thieves stole copper plumbing less than three months after it was temporarily shut down.

“A miscommunication led to the property not being better secured, but that facility and similarly closed facilities will be boarded now and in the future,” Austin said. “It’s a shame the facility was vandalized. The city of Detroit owns these buildings and when someone damages them, they are, essentially, stealing directly from our citizens. Mayor Bing and I both believe and know public safety is critical to our citizens and to the health of our city.”

The city quickly boarded up the building after Motor City Muckraker notified the Mayor’s Office of the break-ins.

To be fair, the city doesn’t have the luxury of protecting every building. State-mandated cuts have forced Mayor Dave Bing to reduce the budgets of the police and fire departments, which can’t afford adequate equipment, decent wages or sufficient firefighters.

“The city is in such a desperate fiscal situation that the fire department’s budget cannot go untouched,” Austin said.  “When the city  prospers, so again will the fire department.”
To view photos of the red-brick fire station, click here. 

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

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  • don austin is disingenious and can’t be trusted with the fire department. i had lunch with him approx. 2 years ago and everything he said he would do he did’nt. as a matter of fact he did the complete opposite,shame on you don! I hope you have moved your mother to a safer area to live and have sold that junky toyota and bought an american car!

    • Jonathan

      Completely agree with Jeff. Don Austin “is” the destruction of the Detroit Fire Dept. He cares nothing for the firemen or their wel being. Which is pretty easy since he’s never been one. Miscommunication my ass. They just don’t care. I bet he is still driving around in a city car, but they don’t have the funds to board up a fire house? We went from fighting fires with 4 guys on each rig, and 5 rigs at each fire. Now we are doing it with 3 on each rig and 3-4 rigs per fire, with way longer response times. FDNY goes home after two fires, we can barely get 10 mins after a fire to get some thing to drink, and then go to 3 or more.