One of Mike Duggan’s most important undertakings as mayor will be improving a fire department that is so understaffed and ill-equipped that people are dying because of malfunctioning equipment, fire station closures and sluggish EMS response times.
Duggan is wasting no time, announcing today that he is nominating an interim fire commissioner while his office launches a nationwide search for a permanent leader who can reduce EMS response times, upgrade faulty equipment and crack down on the arson epidemic.
Taking the helm is Jonathan Jackson, a native Detroiter and 25-year veteran who currently serves as the second deputy fire commissioner.
Duggan, who takes office Jan. 1, plans to conduct a six-month national search for a permanent commissioner and said he hopes Jackson is among the candidates.
“I’ve had several meetings with Jonathon Jackson and been very impressed with his leadership skills,” Duggan said. “Conversations with several leaders in the Fire Department and several union leaders showed the broad support Mr. Jackson has across the department.”
The appointment must be approved by city council.
Earlier this month, the current commissioner, Don Austin, announced he was resigning Dec. 31 amid widespread criticism of his handling of the city’s fire crisis.
The Motor City Muckraker has been examining the fire department over the past year, revealing poor leadership, an inadequately staffed department and firefighters who are forced to work without the proper safety equipment or operating trucks and engines.
Since Austin took the helm in May 2011, firefighters’ wages were cut 10%, arsons were drastically underreported and seven fire stations were permanently closed as part of a $24-million reduction in the department’s budget. Most of those stations have since been broken into and stripped over scrap metal.
Firefighters, who were no fans of Austin, described Jackson as ambitious, smart, tough and earnest.
He’s certainly earned his chance. Jackson was hospitalized eight times as a firefighter, having been assigned straight out of the academy to the busiest company in the nation – Engine 50.
“That experience showed me the importance of preparedness,” said Jackson, who was a design student at the College for Creative Studies before becoming interested in fighting fires. “I also believe it has conditioned me to be ready for this new challenge.”
Jackson said change is urgent.
“Residents can’t wait any longer for us to fix our broken fire and EMS services, which are right now putting our citizens and first responders at risk,” Jackson said. “We have a department of very dedicated men and women and I’m going to do everything I can to give them the tools to succeed.”
Jackson announced the following promotions to his leadership team:
Craig Dougherty as Second Deputy Commissioner for Fire Fighting Operations and Apparatus Repair and Orlando Gregory as Second Deputy Commissioner for the Training & Fire Marshall divisions.
Dougherty has been with the Detroit Fire Department for 36 years and progressed through the ranks to become Chief of Fire Fighting Operations in 2012. As the former Vice-President of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association he has been invaluable to understanding operations of the Department from the perspective of both management and the rank and file. Gregory has 21 years of fire fighting experience with the Detroit Fire Department. He has been a Fire Inspector, Fire Investigator in the Department’s Arson Section, and is the current Chief of the Training Section. As 2nd the Fire Marshal’s Division, including Prevention and Arson, and the Training Section. Deputy Fire Commissioner he will oversee
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.