The monumental task of reforming the beleaguered Detroit Fire Department is now in the hands of a former assistant police chief with managerial prowess but no experience fighting fires.
Mayor Mike Duggan has selected Eric Jones, director of the city’s Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED), as the interim fire commissioner.
Duggan is expected to announce the appointment today, just three days after forcing out Fire Commissioner Edsel Jenkins, who oversaw a department were firefighters relied on unsafe equipment, including defective trucks and outdated air bottles.
Other changes are expected within the top ranks of the Fire Department.
While it’s unusual to reach outside of the fire ranks for the top job, it’s not a first. Mayor Dennis Archer appointed former Assistant Detroit Police Chief Charles E. Wilson as executive fire commissioner in January 2000, a position he held for a year and a half.
Jones, a 25-year veteran of the police department and former commander of the Eastern District, has been described as remarkably sharp, driven and committed. At BSEED, Jones took a hard-nosed approach to reducing blight, using ordinances to force owners to clean up graffiti and dilapidated buildings.
Jones, who lives in Macomb County, graduated from Murray Wright High School and Wayne State University.
Jones won’t have much of a honeymoon period because at the end of the month is Devil’s Night, the notorious tradition of setting fires to houses and buildings on the eve of Halloween.
It’s unclear whether Duggan plans to launch a nationwide search for a permanent commissioner, the top position in the Fire Department.
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.