LeDuff: The Big D is Burning - My9 New Jersey

LeDuff: The Big D is Burning

Updated:

Off the Chain Opinion

(DETROIT - WJBK) When we brought in our new fire commissioner from Los Angeles a little more than a year ago, he bragged about how he once saved the H in the Hollywood sign from burning down.
    
That's something, I suppose. Because the commissioner doesn't have a single story about how he's saved a life in the D.
    
What Commissioner Don Austin has done here is to turn the fire department into a veritable Los Angeles -- we have movie stars, a docudrama and now a tourist thrill ride known the world over!
    
The Detroit premiere of the documentary "Burn" plays Friday night. With respect to the hard-working firefighters who lay it on the line every night, the movie doesn't show anything that we don't already know. The Detroit Fire Department is a disaster, made worse by the bonehead budget cuts by Out-To-Lunch Dave Bing.
    
Why allow a movie camera on the rigs to make yet another negative story about Detroit? We're told it is to show the world the struggles of our emergency responders. Well, the cameras have left and the city still struggles. You don't get rid of a negative image by making movies. You get rid of a negative image by fixing the problems. I thought we learned our lesson with Aiyana Stanley Jones, the seven-year-old who was shot to death by a cop with a cable television camera in tow.
    
What has the fire commissioner done? He has issued an official department-wide bulletin telling the rank and file that the movie producers request they come to the premiere in their dress blues. The good tickets go for 50 bucks. Can somebody tell Dennis Leary they just got their pay cut by 10 percent?
    
Then consider this: A firefighter who will be honored next month for valor has not been issued his dress blues. What's he supposed to do? Show up in his pajamas? Maybe the commissioner can buy him a set of clothes from the money he's making off his tourist thrill ride.
    
As we reported a few weeks ago, Austin has invited firefighters from the world over to come experience the Detroit scene. And 10 guys from Belgium took him up on the offer, paying $2,000 each. For that they get to pull hose, sleep in a real-life firehouse, go to a Tigers game and stand on the red carpet of the Burn premiere.  
    
The Detroit firefighters -- beleaguered by pay cuts and layoffs -- resent being Disneyland tour guides. And guess what happened Thursday night? One of the Belgian guys fell through a roof of a burning building. He's okay, but boy oh boy, what a story he has to tell Hans and Franz back home.
    
Good thing we didn't have to fly him home cargo, because the city isn't insured.

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