Donald Austin started as commissioner of the Detroit Fire Department on 23 May 2011. Response times, equipment failures, and miscommunication led to Dave Bing forcing the resignation of the commissioner James Mack Jr. and his deputy, Seth Doyle, in January 2011. Fred Wheeler has served as interim deputy commissioner since January.

Austin, who grew up in Detroit, retired as an assistant chief from the Los Angeles Fire Department. He has bought a home and plans to live in the city. His salary is $135,000.