By Alexis Wiley
DETROIT — The union representing Detroit firefighters is taking the extraordinary step of suing the city leaders for negligence. They say officials are putting the lives of firefighters and citizens in jeopardy.
"This is one of the most disastrous times in the Detroit Fire Department," said Dan McNamara, President of the Detroit Firefighters Association. "We're seeing a rise in civilian injuries, firefighter injuries and fatalities.
McNamara says cuts have stripped the department to the bone. He says the city has closed 15 fire companies and at least eight more are out of service every day. "Unless somebody stands up and does the right thing this catastrophe is going to continue on," said McNamara.
The union's lawsuit claims the city is breaking the law because Detroit's charter requires the city to provide adequate protection for all its citizens. Firefighters say that is not happening. "They're not letting us do that," said McNamara.
A judge has ruled the union can depose city officials, forcing them to give sworn statements. "We want to find out who's ultimately responsible," said McNamara. Detroit Fire Commissioner Donald Austin is fighting back, however. In a statement he says that Mayor Dave Bing has made public safety a top priority and cites the securement of nearly $30 million in FEMA grants that prevented 108 firefighter layoffs and allowed the city to rehire 26 firefighters. "Despite a tighter budget in recent years, the Fire Department is deploying its resources in the smartest and most efficient manner possible to maintain a high level of service," said Austin.
Depositions are scheduled to begin Feb. 11.
Copyright 2013 WJBK Fox 2
Distributed by Newsbank, Inc. All Rights Reserved