Black smoke prevents neighbors from saving elderly woman in second fatal fire this weekend in Detroit

As soon as the neighbors kicked in the front door, suffocating black smoke rolled out of the home.

Knowing their elderly neighbor was inside, they hit the ground and crawled through the house on Detroit’s west side.
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But the smoke was too thick, acrid and disorienting to reach the 83-year-old woman in her bedroom at Monteray and 14th.

An arriving fireman tried his best, but the flames were too much.

It was the city’s second fatal fire this weekend. A baby girl died on the city’s east side near the Coleman A. Young International Airport after her house caught fire. Firefighters were unable to find a functioning fire hydrant in the immediate area.

Fears are mounting that fire fatalities will reach a crisis point this year after Mayor Dave Bing’s administration closed 15 stations in the past 18 months. Of the 53 companies left, only about 4o are available in any given night.

Fire hydrants also are malfunctioning, largely because of age, scrappers and a lack of staff to make the repairs.

The overall impact: Fires are burning for longer and spreading to neighboring houses and buildings. And that means home insurance is continuing to become more unaffordable for many Detroiters – one reason people are fleeing the city.

Got tips or suggestions? Contact Steve at

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.    

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for daily updates, investigations and photos of Detroit. 

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.

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