Arsons, bad hydrants, neglect spelled trouble on Detroit’s west side

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Detroit has thousands of malfunctioning fire hydrants. File photo by Steve Neavling

Detroit is a long way from being a healthy city.

Take late Saturday morning, when a suspicious fire broke out inside a city-owned house that Detroit had neglected and left open to trespass. The Fire Department arrived at 10:45 a.m. but could not contain the blaze on the 12000 block of Roselawn because the fire hydrants weren’t working or had extremely low pressure – a common problem.

By 11:02 a.m., the fire spread to an occupied house. Three minutes later, flames jumped to another house. There was nothing firefighters could do.

At 11:45 a.m., an hour after the fire started, Chief 2 called for an arson squad because the woman whose house burned said she knew who started the fire. But the lone arson squad in a city that averages more than 12 serious arsons a day was tied up on another investigation.

Even when called, Detroit police often don’t show up because they’re busy handling other crimes.

About 10 minutes later, firefighters spotted a vacant house fire just a block away on Greenlawn. Firefighters said it appeared accelerants were used.

Related: Detroit firefighters attacked by rocks, bottles during wild day of arsons

Battling fires is a constant struggle in a city with thousands of malfunctioning fire hydrants, an inadequate number of firefighters and investigators and about 85,000 blighted and abandoned homes and buildings.

Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration is doing all it can with limited resources. The city is demolishing more than 200 blighted houses a week, hiring more firefighters and repairing and replacing aging fire rigs.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department repairs and maintains more than 27,000 fire hydrants.

“A healthy city doesn’t burn,” Executive Fire Commissioner Edsel Jenkins told. “We have to tackle this problem from all fronts.”

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.

  • nolimitdetroiter

    “A healthy city doesn’t burn”…..that about sums it up. From someone who knows.
    Successful businesses don’t light on fire either.

  • Billy Blake

    Who’s job is it to check if fire hydrants are working. Is it the water department or fire department. I’m asking not sure. I used to see the firemen in New York City opening up hydrants all around the city making sure they worked and flushing them out. I don’t see that happening here with our fire department’s as busy as they are. The water department is more worried about cutting peoples water off than to fix hydrants that are bad. I would like to know after reading this story if the fire hydrant across the street from me works. Will I get in trouble checking it out myself. I bet it has not been checked in years.

    • Bruce Channell

      DFD checks the fire hydrants and DWSD is supposed to repair them.I used to see an occasional fire truck riding around checking the hydrants and if they found one that wasn’t working they would place a yellow sign on the hose outlet that said”out of service”but I’m not sure if DFD still does this.

  • Bruce Channell

    Notice the brass ring is missing on the fire hydrant that the fire hose is attached to.As long as the metal thieves keep doing this the DFD will continue to have a problem whether it’s an arson fire or not.

    • Melissa S. Griggs

      There should be penalties on the scrap yards that buy city property. They know full well the scrawny toothless crackheads showing up with fire hydrant parts don’t own them! Same with manhole covers. That stuff is a pain to walk away with. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t pay, so hold the buyer accountable too!

  • bebow

    Two thumbs up for attacking the problem on all fronts. Front #1 is the dopeman. Front #2 is the dopeman’s crew. Front #3 is the dopeman’s neighborhood network of criminal supporters, occupants of tax delinquent rental shacks. Front #4 is the dopeman’s imported, drug addicted prostitution partners. Front #5 is the slumlords, who allow criminal activity to take place on their properties. Front #6 is the DPD’s corrupt, recently spread out Narcotics Section. Front #7 is the intersection of Fronts #1-6, working feverishly hand-in-hand to ensure the status quo continues.
    Demolition, demolition, demolition…step it up. All tax delinquent rental shacks should be subject to immediate demolition. This is a blight and crime emergency.

    • bebow

      Addendum: The Fronts forced another decent family out of its home. The family packed up and left the city. Add one item to the demolition list. Subtract one item from the tax rolls. Fronts # 6-7 need to be opened up for public scrutiny. There is a BIG problem.

      • When are you running for mayor, or council, or President?

        • bebow

          Never. How could I get anything done if I had to pander to criminals and their enablers for vote harvesting purposes?

          • Congress seems to be able to do it and still find time to muck everything up.