Fire hydrants malfunction, baby girl dies in east-side blaze this morning

This is part of an ongoing series about the city’s fire crisis. 

Unable to find working hydrants, firefighters dashed through heavy smoke and extreme heat to rescue a lifeless 10-month-girl from her upstairs bedroom early this morning.

Firefighters whisked the unconscious girl from the burning east-side home at 1 a.m. and handed her to an awaiting ambulance, where paramedics were unable to resuscitate her. She died before arriving to St. John Hospital, the fire department confirmed this morning.

As family members sobbed, wearing nothing more than T-shirts and socks, firefighters were unable to find a working, non-frozen hydrant. By the time one was found a few blocks away, about 15 minutes had passed, and the house on Promenade, just east of the Coleman A. Young International Airport, was destroyed.

The fatality is at least the second in 10 days. An elderly man with disabilities recently died when he was unable to escape smoke and flames from his bedroom. The two closest fire stations were closed because of budget cuts, so it took the fire department nearly 10 minutes to respond.

Budget problems also are taking a toll on malfunctioning hydrants. The responsibility of checking the hydrants and ensuring they don’t freeze belongs to the understaffed Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which soon could lose more than half of its employees.

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Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Living on the city’s east side, Neavling explores corruption, civil liberties and the underbelly of an oft-misunderstood city.    

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Steve Neavling

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.