Captain suspended: Detroit Fire Department has 2nd DUI accident in 8 days

March 01, 2021, 10:09 PM

(Photo: WDIV video)

A recent Detroit Fire Department embarrassment now has a chaser, just over a week later.

An acting battalion chief from the Ladder 6 company, found to be drunk early Monday after the on-duty crash above, is on unpaid leave and faces possible dismissal, Fire Commissioner Eric Jones tells WXYZ, Fox 2 and the Freep.

The unnamed officer, who wasn't injured, was screened for drugs and alcohol, and tests revealed he was intoxicated, according to the commissioner. Due to the ongoing investigation, Jones declined to give his blood-alcohol level.

The same officer was disciplined in 2016 after testing positive for driving with unprescribed codeine in his blood, Fox 2 says.

This time, he had been on his way to a west-side fire at Majestic Street and Livernois Avenue near Joy Road around 1 a.m. He's a captain filling in as batalion chief and should have been directing the emergency response, but lost control of his department SUV at Milwaukee Avenue and the Lodge Freeway. 

“The vehicle hit the fence, nearly entering the freeway,” said Jones, according to WXYZ.

He said the captain with decades of service, who worked out of the firehouse on Second Street, was suspended for drinking and driving, something there’s a zero tolerance policy for within the department.

“We are starting our disciplinary process. He is also suspended. The penalty for consuming alcohol on duty is termination,” said Jones.

The commissioner tells Fox 2:

"I am outraged at the behavior of this chief who is supposed to be in charge of making sure our men and women are fit for duty. We've had two bad incidents back-to-back, it could appear that it is more widespread.

"And tomorrow [Tuesday], we are going to lay out a plan to address that."

Eight days earlier, a driver from the Engine 50/Ladder 23 firehouse on Houston Whittier Street was suspended after hitting a parked car as he answered a medical call. When police gave a Breatalyzer test, he allegedly showed a blood alcohol level of 0.108 -- legally drunk. 

The wheelman reportedly had been at a dinner party celebrating a promotion, also attended by the battalion chief, a senior chief and other supervisors. A department inquiry is under way.

After that Feb. 21 crash, WDIV quoted insiders as saying on-the-job drinking isn't rare:

"We need a change as a department. Our guys are routinely drunk on calls," said one Detroit firefighter.

Another confirmed firefighter said not all fire crews are bad, "but they have a lot who party at work."

Fire and city officials, joined by at least one union representative, will hold a news conference Tuesday to address the embarrassments. "We know better and are going to do better," said Jones, according to WXYZ.

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