The operators of an east-side liquor store that caught fire and injured two firefighters Wednesday evening locked the doors and drove off before neighbors saw black smoke rolling from the building.
The owner told us he closed down the store at Chene and E. Ferry while he and two others took a break and returned around 7:30 p.m. to see the building ablaze.
“We don’t know what happened,” he said in broken English, declining to identify himself. “We were on our way back and saw the fire in the front. It could have been anything.”
The blaze quickly consumed the building and overwhelmed firefighters. Bricks from an exterior wall collapsed on two firefighters, severely injuring one of them.
The one with serious injuries was trapped beneath cascading chunks of heavy bricks. Firefighters dragged him from the debris and away from the crumbling building. The other victim limped away, holding his back and neck.
Arson investigators scoured the scene Wednesday night for evidence. The cause was unknown as of Thursday morning.
The fire was just the beginning of a night rife with arsons. Five suspicious fires broke out between midnight and 1 a.m. in Detroit, taking a toll on the understaffed department.
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.