Detroit's firefighters union argues cuts threaten safety in suit - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Detroit's firefighters union argues cuts threaten safety in lawsuit

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DETROIT (WJBK) -

Controversial cuts to the Detroit Fire Department are igniting a new legal battle.  The union is filing a lawsuit against the city claiming cost-cutting measures threaten pubic safety.

The fire station right next door to Grady Rogers' home is empty.

"Almost a month ... nobody [has] been over there."

Neighbors like Jeffrey Austin have taken over mowing the fire station's lawn to deter scrapers.

"It was actually up to the middle of my shin."

However, it's not the scrappers that has these Detroiters worried.

"It is unsafe," Rogers said.

"By them being there, we knew we always would have somebody to go to if something was to ever go wrong," said Austin.

The fire station is one of eight on the chopping block.  The city is permanently closing 15 companies, seven of which the city says have been browned out since 2005.  They'll also brown out at least ten additional companies every day and layoff 28 firefighters.  All of this is supposed to happen Friday, but in this neighborhood it's already beginning.

"I don't know what's going on," said Rogers.

"I believe the city could've found other ways to cut the budget besides cutting firemen and the fire department down to nothing," Austin said.

"You can't use a budget as an excuse to dismantle this fire department and make people more unsafe," said Dan McNamara with the Detroit Fire Fighters Association.

That's exactly what the Detroit Fire Fighters Association is arguing in their latest lawsuit.  The union claims the city's cuts threaten the safety of citizens and firefighters.  The brief points to data the union says proves these cuts are dangerous.

"I know we can show that this city can not make their obligation on these responses," McNamara said.

So what does the city and the commissioner have to say?  Mayor Dave Bing's office sent a statement that said in part, "The city has a plan to effectively and efficiently maintain the highest level of fire service for the city's citizens."

Components of the plan include using newly installed GPS systems in engines and rigs to better deploy resources, increasing the use of the Community Emergency Response Team and the Fire Corps and community fire prevention education.

However, the city's statement raises a few questions.  For one, the city points to GPS systems installed in rigs and engines.  There are no GPS systems at Engine 5.  The city also talks about the Fire Corps.  We couldn't find one firefighter who even knew that the Fire Corps existed.  So the question is will this plan turn into action by Friday?

"We don't know what to do Friday," said McNamara.

The Detroit Fire Fighters Association told us they expect a judge to call an emergency hearing as early as Wednesday.

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