Detroit City Council today approved the appointment of Eric Jones as the city’s new fire commissioner.
The 8-1 vote comes a little more than two weeks after Mayor Mike Duggan forced out Fire Commissioner Edsel Jenkins and replaced him with Jones on an interim basis.
Now Jones, a former assistant police chief who turned around Detroit’s beleaguered building department, has the authority to appoint more than a dozen of the department’s top brass as he pledges to improve firefighting services in a city with the highest arson rate in the nation.
Council President Brenda Jones voted against the appointment, saying she prefers someone with firefighting experience.
Showing that he was serious about improving morale and removing dysfunctional management within the Fire Department, Jones last month required his top staff to re-apply for their jobs, and he opened up the positions to firefighters. Applications for the top brass jobs are due this week.
Under Jenkins’ leadership, firefighters were forced to rely on faulty rigs, outdated equipment and asbestos-riddled firehouses. Firefighters who blew the whistle on state and federal safety laws were threatened with discipline.
Jones is expected to begin removing some of the top brass as early as this week.
The fire department is coming off a promising Devil’s Night, when only 52 fires broke out during the three-day period, which is a record low.
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.