Another head rolls as Detroit Fire Department undergoes long-awaited changes

Fire Commissioner Eric Jones, with his son and Mayor Mike Duggan at a press conference. Photo by Steve Neavling.
Fire Commissioner Eric Jones, with his son and Mayor Mike Duggan at a press conference. Photo by Steve Neavling.

Just one day after the Detroit City Council confirmed the appointment of new Fire Commissioner Eric Jones, he wasted no time delivering on a promise to reform the beleaguered Fire Department.

Jones accepted the resignation Wednesday of Deputy Commissioner Craig Dougherty, who has forced firefighters to rely on outdated safety equipment and defective fire engines and ladder trucks. Firefighters complained that he threatened to fire anyone who spoke to Motor City Muckraker about state and federal safety violations under his watch.

Craig Dougherty
Craig Dougherty

Dougherty was responsible for overseeing safety equipment and the fleet of fire rigs and was also featured prominently in the Burn documentary about the challenges facing Detroit’s firefighters.

Jones said he has a replacement in mind.

“I have a very strong, intelligent, capable candidate that I will be having conversations with,” Jones told me at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters on Thursday. “We are under no illusions about the state of the apparatus. We have been plagued with problems. My goal is to eradicate those.”

Mayor Mike Duggan, who was fed up with unaddressed issues¬†in the Fire Department, forced out Commissioner Edsel Jenkins just two weeks before Devil’s Night and replaced him with Jones, a former assistant police chief who turned around the city’s building department.

Fire Commissioner Edsel Jenkins
Fire Commissioner Edsel Jenkins

Soon after the appointment, Jones required all of his top brass to re-apply for their jobs and opened up the positions to firefighters and their officers. Their resumes are due on Monday.

More personnel changes are possible, Jones said.

“I know there is hidden talent in this department,” Jones said. “I am going to make my decisions based on those submissions (of resumes). There are going to be interviews and presentations. I fully expect for us to have some candidates who are capable of being in leadership positions.”

Check back for an exclusive interview with the new commissioner.

 

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.