Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — Detroit’s interim fire commissioner, Jonathan Jackson, announced Wednesday that he’s retiring unexpectedly because of a serious neurological brain condition.
The 44-year-old Detroit native was named interim fire commissioner by Mayor Mike Duggan in December after a 25-year career. He had been second deputy fire commissioner under the previous chief, Don Austin, who retired in December.
Jackson was widely considered a front-runner for the permanent commissioner job. He began noticing health problems within the last couple of months including dizziness and said doctors told him he would be better off not working to fight the condition he declined to name specifically.
At a news conference this afternoon, Jackson said he was most appreciative of the camaraderie over the years with fellow firefighters and — despite being hospitalized eight times over his career in job-related incidents — considered himself lucky to have never suffered a life-altering injury.
“It truly is just a unique and just great place to work, and the men of this department, you spend more time with them than you actually do your family,” Jackson said. “You end up working together like brothers and sisters.”
He said that, in the three months as commissioner, he had focused on improving response times for emergency medical services, recruiting for what could be as many as 200 new firefighters and EMS workers in the next couple of years and developing a new training facility for firefighters.
Jackson, married with two teenage children, said his focus in the coming months will be on spending time with family and focusing on his health.
Duggan spokeswoman Alexis Wiley said the city is still determining how to proceed in finding a replacement commissioner. Jackson’s retirement is effective April 7.
“Jonathan has had a distinguished and heroic career at the Fire Department and has served citizens extremely well as their executive fire commissioner,” Duggan said. “It could not have been an easy decision for him to retire before his efforts were able to bear fruit, but I understand and support his decision completely. What is most important right now is for him to get healthy and enjoy his retirement with his family.”
Duggan also praised Jackson’s tenure, saying that he had helped lay ground for faster EMS response times, more aggressive battling of arsonists and improvements to the city’s ambulance fleet.
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