Part two of a continuing series on abandoned buildings. More than 60,000 vacant buildings are scattered across Detroit and Highland Park, driving down property values and attracting crime, rodents and fires. This is the story of one of those buildings.
Less than three months after Detroit temporarily closed a fire station to save money, thieves have ransacked the Engine 49 building, stealing TVs, furniture, copper pipes and anything else of value, the Motor City Muckraker has discovered.
Whether the west-side building will be salvaged is questionable because thieves stole copper plumbing, unleashing a torrent of water that was quickly rising in the basement.
A similar theft forced the permanent closure of the historic and storied Kronk Gym, the city’s first recreation center, about five years ago. Other fire stations have met a similar fate.
Less than an hour before the Motor City Muckraker informed the Mayor’s Office of the thefts this morning, the city began securing the building on West Grand Avenue near Fullerton. The water department also arrived.
The failure to secure the building raises questions about the city’s ability or willingness to protect vital assets as it consolidates buildings.
Despite complaints about a theft at the two-story, brick fire station in July, the building was easily accessible through a wide-open rear door.
The fire station closure was part of a cost-cutting measure by Mayor Dave Bing and Fire Commissioner Don Austin. Included in the cuts were reductions in pay for firefighters, who are covering more space with fewer equipment.
Gov. Rick Snyder is requiring painful budget reductions because the city has buried itself in debt and is on the verge of bankruptcy.
The Motor City Muckraker is awaiting responses from Bing and Austin.
In the station’s garage, someone spray-painted in bright orange: “Fuck Don Austin/Fuck Dave Bing/Cock Suckas.”
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.