First week of February: Fires kill 2 brothers, burn 26 houses; rigs malfunction

In the first week of February, fires claimed the lives of two brothers, injured at least three others and damaged or destroyed 26 houses and two commercial buildings.

During that time, five fire rigs malfunctioned on the way to fires or at the scene, and at least two fire hydrants were broken, causing more extensive damage.

And that was a slow week.

During the first seven days of February, there were 28 structure fires, compared to 63 during the first week of January. Traditionally, February is the slowest month for fires in Detroit.

Although the numbers weren’t as high, likely because of heavy snow, the fires were destructive.

Two brothers died after firefighters removed them from the second floor of this house at 8221 Lyford.
Two brothers died after firefighters removed them from the second floor of this house at 8221 Lyford.

A 12-year-old boy, Quartez Burrell, and his 17-year-old brother, Cortez Burrell, were killed after their parents couldn’t reach them on the burning second floor. Firefighters rescued the brothers from the home. Quartez died soon after, and his brother died Monday morning. They were seriously burned and overcome with smoke inhalation.

Firefighters saved the life of a squatter on Feb. 2 after finding him unconscious and not breathing in a boarded-up house at 18805 Dean. They performed CPR, and the badly burned man was breathing by the time the ambulance arrived.

Of the 28 fires, 16 were suspicious.

This is part of our yearlong examination of the beleaguered fire department, which is alarmingly understaffed and sending an increasing number of malfunctioning rigs to fires. The blazes are burning out neighborhoods and chasing away residents.

We are documenting every fire this year, collecting information on each blaze and taking photos of the damage. There were more than 3,000 fires each of the past two years. All of the photos are being uploaded to Motor City Mapping, a nonprofit effort to collect current data and pictures of every parcel in Detroit, using a unique technology created by Loveland Technologies.

Here is a list of all structure fires that caused damage in February. This doesn’t include small electrical fires or kitchen fires. The information comes from dispatch reports, run sheets and interviews.

Please consider a donation to help us sustain and improve this project.





Time: 11:17 p.m.
Address: 16906 Woodbine
Building type: House
Preliminary cause: Suspicious
Details: Small fire handled by the first arriving engine and ladder truck.
Companies: E54, L26

2/2/15

Time: 12:13 a.m.
Address: 10083 Aurora, 48204
Building type: House
Preliminary cause: Unknown
Details: Fire in a two-story house.
Companies: L17, E40, S4, C2, E42
Companies clear scene: 2:19 a.m.

Time: 12:43 a.m.
Address: 15355 Steel
Building type: House
Occupancy:
Preliminary cause: Suspicious
Details:  Engulfed when firefighters arrived. Extra engine called. Firefighters took defensive posture, letting the house burn while protecting the nearby properties. It took L27 17 minutes to arrive. E59 couldn’t dump its monitor because it wasn’t working. The house collapsed. Power lines were toppled.
Companies clear scene: 3:10 a.m.
Companies: C4, S1, E30, L27, E53, E59

Time: 2:33 a.m.
Address: 16611 Meyers
Building type: Commercial
Occupancy:
Preliminary cause: Suspicious
Details: Chief 4 was finishing a nearby fire when he was called to this – a fire in a commercial building. The first engine to arrive took 13+ minutes because of the long distance and heavy snow. L18 arrived 19 minutes after being called. By then, the squad warned that the fire was spreading to a second building. The building collapsed.
Companies: E44, E54, S5, L18, C4, E39
Fire out: 5:18 a.m.

Time: 2:58 a.m.
Address: 15252 Gratiot
Building type: Commercial
Occupancy:
Preliminary cause: Unknown
Details: Two extra companies called for help. The building collapsed.
Companies: C9, E50, E60, S6, L23, E46, E41

Time: 8:25 a.m.
Address: 9223 Winthrop
Building type: House
Occupancy:
Preliminary cause: Suspicious
Details: E55 sent alone to investigate a possible rekindle. The house was severely damaged in a fire in mid-January. After spotting a fire, the engine requested a box alarm. By the time the extra companies arrived, they needed extra manpower.
Companies: E55, L27, C2, E53, S1, E42
Companies clear scene: 9:37 p.m.

Time: 10:20 a.m.
Address: 20080 Southfield Rd.
Building type: House
Occupancy: Vacant
Preliminary cause: Suspicious
Details: Originally reported as a vacant house, the home was occupied, and everyone was safely out when firefighters arrived. Search of house completed at 10:44 a.m.
Companies: E53, E59, C4, S5, L26

Firefighters rescued a man from this boarded-up house at 18805 Dean.
Firefighters rescued a man from this boarded-up house at 18805 Dean.

Time: 12:55 p.m.
Address: 18805 Dean, 48234
Building type: House
Occupancy: Occupied
Preliminary cause: Unknown
Details: House was engulfed when firefighters arrived. EMS was requested for a possible occupied house at 12:57 p.m. Firefighters rescued one victim at 1:06 p.m. “Get a blanket on this guy, some kind of protection from the snow,” the chief said while waiting for EMS. At 1:09 p.m., an arson investigator was en route, which is routine for fatal fires. Dispatch gave a 10-minute ETA for an ambulance at 1:10 p.m. The fire was out at 1:12 p.m. “Can you have them step it up,” the chief asked of EMS. “We have CPR in progress.” At 1:17 p.m., the chief alerted dispatch that the victim had a pulse. EMS (Superior) arrived at 1:18 p.m. and transported the victim at 1:22 p.m. The house had an illegal electrical hookup.
Companies: E44, E56, L18, S3, C8, HM1
Fire out: 2:17 p.m.

Time: 1:17 p.m.
Address: 11075 Worden, 48224
Building type: House
Occupancy: Occupied
Preliminary cause: Suspicious
Details: At 1:24 p.m., the first firefighters arrived and called for EMS because the house was occupied. An extra fire engine was sent for help. Search of house completed at 1:33 p.m.
Companies: E46, S7, E50, L23, C9, E60
Fire out: 2:13 p.m.

2/3/14

Time: 2:30 a.m.
Address: 6161 Crane
Building type: House
Occupancy: Occupied
Preliminary cause: Suspicious
Details: All the occupants were safely out of the house.
Companies: C9, L23, E41, E46, S3
Fire out: 3:28 a.m.
Companies clear scene:
Duration:

Time: 6:56 a.m.
Address: 15377 Robson
Building type: House
Occupancy: Occupied
Preliminary cause: Intentional
Details: EMS requested for possible people in the house. All civilians were out when firefighters arrived.
Companies: C4, E30, E53, L26, S5

Time: 4:35 p.m.
Address: 18065 Ohio
Building type: House
Occupancy: Occupied
Preliminary cause: Unknown
Details: Started as a still alarm, with E30 going alone. The lone occupant was out safely. The chief reported that the fire was under control at 4:52. Complete search
Companies: E30, E40, S5, L17, C4
Companies clear scene: 5:55 p.m.

2/4/15

Time: 9:42 a.m.
Address: 7819 Minock
Building type: House
Occupancy: Occupied
Preliminary cause: Combustible too close
Details: One civilian injured
Companies: C2, E53, E57, L27, S1
Fire out:
Companies clear scene:
Duration:

Time: 4:17 p.m.
Address:
Building type: 200 E. Greendale
Occupancy:
Preliminary cause: Suspicious
Details: Firefighters performed an interior attack on fire in the attic and first floor. Basement was flooded, so firefighters couldn’t check there for victims.
Companies: E56, C8, S5, L18, E44
Fire out: 4:42 p.m.
Companies clear scene: 5:26 p.m.

Time: 4:32 p.m.
Address: 6368 Walden, 48213
Building type: House
Occupancy:
Preliminary cause: Short circuit
Details: A resident came into Engine 34’s quarters to say there was a house fire. Firefighters confirmed the fire and called for ladder truck for help.
Companies: L22, E34
Companies clear scene: 4:55 p.m.

2/5/15

Time: 2:25 a.m.
Address: 14855 Holmur
Building type: House
Occupancy: Vacant
Preliminary cause: Suspicious
Details: E40 arrived at 2:28 a.m. and reported the house was engulfed. S5 requested an additional fire engine for help. Fire under control at 3:04 p.m.
Companies: S5, E30, L17, C8, E40, E42
Fire out: 3:37 a.m.

Time: 3:58 a.m.
Address: 8063 Greenlawn
Building type: House
Occupancy: Occupied
Preliminary cause: Suspicious
Details: A ladder truck and fire engine were called to check on a fire. When the engine arrived, firefighters found a house fire. C2 arrived about 15 minutes after being called.
Companies: E55, E34, S4, L22, C2

Time: 4:03 a.m.
Address: 19818 Cooley
Building type: 1-story house
Occupancy:
Preliminary cause: Suspicious
Details: The first arriving engine found a large fire inside a one-story house. EMS and an extra company were requested. Chief 4 requested police at 4:18 a.m. after the homeowner said there were shots fired just prior to the fire. Police arrived 7 minutes later, which is fast for the overburdened police department.
Companies: C4, L26, S1, E59, E54, E57

An arsonist set this new house ablaze at 4748 Maryland.
An arsonist set this new house ablaze at 4748 Maryland.

Time: 3:06 p.m.
Address: 4748 Maryland
Building type: House
Occupancy: Occupied
Preliminary cause:
Details: Firefighters requested EMS at 3:13 p.m. for injured civilian. A fire started in the garage and spread to the house. EMS arrived at 3:21 p.m. – an 8-minute response.
Companies: L31, C6, S6, E58, E52, E41
Fire out: 3:36 p.m.

Time: 9:32 p.m.
Address: 18481 Sussex
Building type: House
Occupancy: Vacant
Preliminary cause: Suspicious
Details: When firefighters first arrived, they could smell smoke in the area. S1 found the house fire about 45 seconds later. At 9:40, firefighters said the house appeared to be vacant. Extra manpower was sent at 9:40 p.m. The chief said the fire, which was confined largely to the basement, was under control at 9:55 p.m. E53’s lines froze.
Companies: C4, L26, E53, S1, E59, E30.
Companies clear scene: 10:12 p.m.

2/6/14

Time: 4:35 a.m.
Address: 4748 Maryland 
Building type:
Occupancy:
Preliminary cause: Suspicious
Details: Dispatch sent an engine and ladder truck to what appeared to be a rekindle. The original fire was the afternoon before. The dispatcher warned at 4:37 p.m.: “There may be someone inside the rekindle.” When firefighters arrived, they asked for more help because the house was engulfed. At 4:47 p.m., firefighters took a defensive posture. Chief said, “We have a witness on the scene who saw somebody set the fire and run.” Full search was never possible because the house collapsed.
Companies: L31, E52, E58, S6, C6

Time: 4:56 a.m.
Address: 8221 Lyford
Building type: House
Occupancy: Occupied
Preliminary cause: Unknown
Details: Reported as three children trapped inside a burning house. Firefighters removed two victims from the smoke-filled house. The chief requested an extra fire engine at 5:04 a.m. At 5:14 a.m., the chief said all of the victims were out of the house. The chief requested arson at 5:26 a.m.
Companies: E46, E50, L23, S3, E41, C9
Companies clear scene: 5:52 p.m.

Time: 6:37 a.m.
Address: 20009 Strasburg
Building type: House
Occupancy:
Preliminary cause: Suspicious
Details: EMS was requested for standby when firefighters were called. Two additional fire engines were sent. A fire hydrant malfunctioned. An illegal electricity hookup was found.
Companies: S3, C9, L23, E50, E60, E56, E46

Time: 1:52 p.m.
Address: 18717 Robeson
Building type: House
Occupancy: Occupied
Preliminary cause: Unknown
Details:
Companies: C4, L26, E30, S1, E59, E53

Time: 8:41 p.m.
Address: 2233 Elmhurst
Building type: House
Occupancy: Occupied
Preliminary cause: Unknown
Details: Dispatched informed firefighters that EMS was requested at 8:44 p.m. for people possibly inside the house. Firefighters rescued a dog. A third engine was called for help at 8:48 p.m. EMS and E35 arrived at 8:56 p.m. The basement was flooded.
Companies: S5, E39, C8, E44, E35, L17
Fire out: 9:03 p.m.
Companies clear scene: 9:35 p.m.

Time: 11:31 p.m.
Address: 12086 Glenfield
Building type: House
Occupancy: Occupied
Preliminary cause: Short circuit
Details: EMS was requested at the onset for an injured civilian. Extra company requested at 11:37 p.m. All occupants were safely out of the house. Fire was under control at 11:57 p.m. E50 was out of service after the fire with frozen lines.
Companies: E46, E50, L23, C9, S6, E52
Fire out: 12:11 a.m.

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.

  • mugg$

    Pyro-philiacs have a perversion and this perversion is not talked about nor even realized by many. I tried to explain it to a co-worker (the sexual release the arsonists have with fires) and my coworker sneered at me and did not believe me. I had to literally show him a written psychiatric report on the subject to prove my argument.

    I do believe there may be one guy, or a few, who do most of the fires around a certain area. If the FBI or another CAPABLE crime investigation were started on these cases perhaps Detroit could put a dent in the arson fires.

  • 1Joshua

    Fine journalism, Steve. Unmatched in the city.

  • Marian Pyszko

    Wow.. this is amazing. Keep up the good work Steve.