'I'm doing the very best I can,' DFD commish says at meeting - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

'I'm doing the very best I can,' DFD commish says at meeting

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Detroit Fire Commissioner Don Austin answers question at a community meeting Tuesday night.  (Credit: WJBK | myFOXDetroit.com) Detroit Fire Commissioner Don Austin answers question at a community meeting Tuesday night. (Credit: WJBK | myFOXDetroit.com)
DETROIT (WJBK) -

Before this meeting even started, I heard a woman saying she feels like she has to sleep with a gun in one hand and a hose in the other.  After sitting through this meeting, I can't blame her.

"You have your challenges.  I have my challenges.  I'm doing the very best I can do," Detroit Fire Commissioner Don Austin said Tuesday night.

About 100 Detroit firefighters and a handful of average Detroiters came to a community meeting.  They wanted answers, real answers, from the commissioner of their fire department, a man who is making decisions in the midst of a financial nightmare.

"I'd like to know how you can justify having only eight arson investigators in a city that easily gets eight arsons a night?" one woman asked.

"I can't justify it, but it is what it is.  The lady mentioned about she pays taxes.  I pay taxes.  The only difference is we're both paying taxes with 700,000 fewer people," Austin responded.

"I think it's intolerable that these men and women have to work in a building with feces in it," said another woman.

"There's a lot of situations.  I'm not making excuses.  It's just the way it is.  I'm doing the very best I can," Austin said.

"This is a ticking time bomb.  A rig is going to leave out and it's going to go to a fire.  En route to a fire a wheel might pop off, steering linkage might come lose, and not only is someone burning in the house, now somebody just got killed," remarked a firefighter.

"I go to bed every night praying that I don't wake up to a disaster where a firefighter or a medic has been killed or injured, where we fail to deliver the service that we so hard try and deliver," said Austin.

"What is an unacceptable time to respond before you go to the mayor's office and demand resources for us?" asked another firefighter.

"First of all, I'm not going to demand anything," Austin replied.  "You think that's my job.  Look, I have accepted the reality, and I'm going to do the very best I can with the money that I have."

"You're doing your best commissioner.  That's not good enough for Mrs. Johnson or Mrs. Smith or the young child that was shot the other day and didn't get an ambulance.  It's not right," said Wisam Zeineh from Detroit EMS.

Despite more than an hour of questions and vague answers, one message came through loud and clear.

"If we go over budget, that trigger with the cocked gun called emergency manager is waiting for us," said Austin.

However, is avoiding an EM trumping the safety of the people who live in Detroit?  That question has yet to be answered.

I tried to get an interview with Austin after the meeting, but I was told he was not going to be doing any interviews and would not be taking any more questions.

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