Single arson drained fire resources for entire east side of Detroit; budget cuts endangering lives

fire_9962_editJamie Hinton got a heart-stopping text early this morning about her childhood home of 49 years.

“Somebody set the house on fire on the boulevard,” her friend texted at 1 a.m.. “Don’t waste your times. It’s a super fire.”

Hinton was staying with family while saving money to fix pipes at her lifelong home on East Grand Boulevard at Lafayette.

“All our belongings are still in the house; that’s probably why it’s burning like that,” she told me as enormous flames tore through the roof and windows. “We just boarded it up. Makes no sense.”

Last week, a fire gutted a house across the street.

Because of station closures and malfunctioning trucks, firefighters from as far as 12 minutes away were called to help this morning. That left one station – one of the busiest in the city – with the responsibility of covering the entire east side, which averages five to 10 fires a night.

When the blaze broke out, the closest station was unavailable because of temporary, rotating closures called brown outs. The second closest ladder truck was in the repair shop for brake problems.

“It’s a damn mess,” a firefighter told me at the scene. “I wouldn’t expect a third-world country to operate like this. And they say it’s only going to get worse.”

As Gov. Rick Snyder announces plans today to take over the city’s finances, the state will be responsible for Detroit’s public safety crisis.

“Just like Colin Powell told Bush, if you go in Iraq, you own it,” NAACP Detroit Branch President Wendell Anthony said.  “Once you put the emergency manager in, you own it.”

I asked the governor last week how he intended to handle the public safety crisis.

“We have to take look at ways to do things more cost-effectively,” he said.

Got tips or suggestions? Contact Steve at sneavling@gmail.com. 

Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist, a freelance reporter for Reuters and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Living on the city’s east side, Neavling explores corruption 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.

  • Eric

    Half of the articles are this site is simply lobbying for the fire dept. 12 minutes isn’t that far if this were a multi-alarm fire.

    Because of station closures and malfunctioning trucks, firefighters from as far as 12 minutes away were called to help this morning. That left one station – one of the busiest in the city – with the responsibility of covering the entire east side, which averages five to 10 fires a night.

    • Mr. France

      When it’s your property or the lives of your loved ones then we will see if 12 minutes is too far or not.

  • bebow

    This is completely unacceptable. The government collects taxes from us by force of law to provide basic services. In Detroit, those tax collections are particularly steep. Looking into the problem when citizens are losing everything and dying due to the absence of those basic services on a daily basis is not good enough. The state is responsible for all of its citizen, including the ones in Detroit. We are not children of a lesser god, and this is not Calcutta. When people choose to occupy elected office, then they also choose to be leaders, to assume responsibility, to carry out assigned duties, to produce results, and that applies to the elected at all levels. Everybody and their mommas have been wading into this situation for a long time now without taking care of any business on behalf of the citizens. We paid to receive basic services. We paid big time. Produce the services right now, or be gone. That’s the deal. Government does not exist as an employment agency for non-productive types. It is not a chat room, either. The time for talking is over, and the delivery of basic services must commence immediately.

    • Big Bill

      Actually, Detroiters haven’t paid “big time”. Forty-seven percent of Detroiters dont pay their property taxes and still keep their homes.

      You ARE paying, Bebow. They AREN’T.

      What are you going to do? Other Michiganders are not going to pick up the tab for a Detroit half full of tax deadbeats, nor should they.

      You know what you have to do to make your city livable. You know what you have to do to the arsonists who burn 5-10 houses a night.

      Hammurabi’s Code said that a builder who built a house that collapsed would be crushed under a pile of stone as punishment. Very appropriate.

      What should you do to your arsonists since the Detroit police and Detroit courts are doing nothing? What would be appropriate, do you think?

      Grow a pair, Bebow. Do what has to be done. Do what Africans do in Africa. Do what folks did on the American frontier.