Trio of arsons leaves Detroit’s east side without fire protection, exposes new dangers

chene_1320_2The east side of Detroit came close to disaster Friday night.

A trio of arsons broke out in a few-block area of Chene and East Palmer shortly before 10 p.m., drawing all of the available east side companies. One engine broke down at the station.

chene fires_1325_2While dozens of firefighters toiled over the fires, which gutted two houses and a commercial building, one half of Detroit was a blaze away from calamity. That included included downtown, Midtown and Indian Village, along with numerous underserved neighborhoods.

Since Mayor Dave Bing cut the fire department by 20% and closed a third of the companies last year, firefighters are struggling to keep pace with 12 to 15 arsons a day.

“It’s a very dangerous situation,” Dan McNamara, president of the firefighters’ union, told me. “We need more firefighters.”

That may be unlikely because the state is under the control of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, who has the daunting task of balancing the city’s deficit-heavy budget.

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chene fires_1328_2Steve Neavling, who lives on the city’s east side, is an investigative journalist, a freelance reporter for Reuters and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Neavling explores corruption, Detroit’s unsung heroes 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.