Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Burning Down the House

In a story that is being widely reported by the Detroit, Midwest, and some national news outlets, Detroit Fire Commissioner Donald Austin is giving consideration to letting vacant buildings in that city burn without intervention.  Reporting on the issue has been neutral to mildly negative, with most taking the tack: "What could he possibly be thinking to propose such an idea?"  To read an article on the situation as reported by the Detroit Free Press, click the link below:

Comment:  Although to cub reporters on this story the Commissioner's idea probably looks like a ploy to get money restored to his budget, my vote would be to let the Commissioner do exactly what he is proposing.  A 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Fire Department, Commissioner Austin has only been with the Detroit Fire Department since May of last year.  However, in that short time he has already won praise for reducing the number of fires during the annual Angels' night by more than 44%.  Secret weapon? Real-time tracking of evening events using GIS.  And his proposed approach to vacant buildings is no different than what award winning Fire Chief Don Oliver of Wilson, North Carolina has been doing for years. Faced with scads of abandoned warehouses in his city as the tobacco industry began its slide toward oblivion in the early 1990's, Chief Oliver has resorted to the heavy use of GIS on Mobile Data Terminals (MDT) to make known to his firefighters which buildings were worth risking lives to save.  Abandoned buildings get to - burn, baby, burn.  So, I sincerely hope Commissioner Austin's plan gets to "rock on" because it is ultimately about saving the lives of firefighters.....

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