Mayor Bing’s administration snubs questions about crisis brewing in fire department

Fire Repair ShopMore than half of Detroit’s aging fire trucks are broken down or out of service.

The most effective weapon against a majority of fires – ladder and bucket rigs – are harder to come by and often malfunction at the scene. The Fire Department recently took out of commission the only functioning aerial ladder, which is the only truck able to reach a blaze more than a few stories high.

The mechanical problems are endangering residents and driving up home insurance rates.

So what’s going on?

That’s the problem – Mayor Dave Bing’s administration won’t say.

When asked about specific problems with the Fire Department’s rigs, Fire Commissioner Don Austin had one dismissive response: “We are working everyday to keep our fleet serviced.”

How many fire trucks are out of service? Why is the fleeting falling apart?

“We are working everyday to keep our fleet serviced.”

Also out of service is the city’s only truck equipped to handle an airport accident – Engine 20.

Asked about how the city will handle an airport fire, Austin again refused to answer.

“Number 14 Code of Federal Regulation Part 139 does not require Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting at general aviation airports,” he said.

At least seven people have died in Detroit fires in the past month.

At the repair shop, fire trucks are wedged into a block-long garage at Eastern Market.

Bing ran on a platform of promoting transparency and open government.

Got tips or suggestions? Contact Steve at sneavling@gmail.com

Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist and former city hall reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Living on the city’s east side, Neavling explores corruption, civil liberties and the underbelly of an oft-misunderstood city.    

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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.