Has Detroit surrendered? City fails to protect another fire station from thieves

Not even a week after thieves ransacked a temporarily closed fire station because of what the city calls miscommunication, another station was picked apart for its copper, the Motor City Muckraker has found.

The latest victim to scrappers is the former Engine 10 at Martin Luther King and Grand Boulevard, which closed earlier this summer.

It’s unclear why the city isn’t better protecting stations that could reopen once Detroit gets on better financial footing.

Muckraker is awaiting answers from the city.

The near destruction of Engine 49, first published here, prompted Fire Commissioner Don Austin to promise to protect the other closed stations.

“A miscommunication led to the property not being better secured, but that facility and similarly closed facilities will be boarded now and in the future,” Austin said.

So why wasn’t Engine 10 protected? We hope to find out.

It’s a tumultuous time for the fire department, which lost about 15 comanies to closings and is operating on a budget that can’t fund anything close to adequate safety equipment and personnel.

The result: Blazes are burning longer, firefighters are being injured and people are losing their homes as fires spread from house to house without the proper trucks to extinguish the flames.
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“When is this deadly experiment with the members of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association going to end?” asked Dan McNamara, president of the association. “The leaders of this city certainly are aware of what is really happening on the streets and to us but choosing to ignore the escalating challenges and threats.”

On top of that, Mayor Bing has demanded firefighters take a 10% pay cut and a reduction in benefits.

The same is happening to the understaffed police department, which can’t keep pace with the 265 murders so far this year – a 15% increase over homicides at this time last year.

Bing is under pressure from the state to cut the city’s deficit-riddled budget. If he doesn’t meet stiff state standards, Gov. Rick Snyder has pledged to take over the city with an emergency manager – a threat that has incensed many Detroiters because of the types of cuts that are endangering residents.

What remains unclear is whether the state will offer emergency funding to prevent residents from dying because of inadequate services.

“We’re an afterthought,” Detroiter Ben Davidson told me after a fire on the east-side destroyed two neighboring houses. “How many people have to die before someone wakes up? We’re fighting for our lives out here. Please, we need help.”

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.

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