Man dies in house blaze just blocks from recently closed fire station

Gray=closed fire companies; red=open fire companies

Part of our yearlong examination of every fire in Detroit in 2015. 

A man died in a house fire on Detroit’s east side Thursday night after firefighters were unable to rescue him in time.

Just five blocks from the blaze is a fire station that housed Ladder 14, but for reasons that aren’t yet clear, the city shut down the company two months ago. The second closest company, Engine 32, was shut down in 2013 as part of massive budget cuts that permanently shuttered 15 fire stations.

A man died at this house at 2995 Fischer. Photo courtesy of Motor City Mapping.
A man died at this house at 2995 Fischer. Photo courtesy of Motor City Mapping.

So instead of firefighters traveling a few blocks, the closest fire company, Engine 41, was 2.1 miles away. While no one will ever know whether L14’s firefighters could have saved the man, every second counts in a fire.

Related: Deadly fire rips through camper surrounded by white picket fence. 

Less than a minute after arriving, Engine 41’s firefighters found the lifeless victim on the first floor near the kitchen.

Ladder 14 was “browned out” as part of Mayor Bing’s budget cuts, but Executive Fire Commissioner Edsel Jenkins temporarily reactivated the company about four months ago because of problems with a nearby rig. We are awaiting a response from Jenkins.

Related: Daring rescue saves squatter from boarded-up home

The city’s decision to cut more than a third of the city’s fire stations has left firefighters understaffed and fatigued. That means fires are burning longer and causing more damage, accelerating residential flight and claiming lives.

Making matters worse is the city’s aging, long-neglected fleet of rigs that are breaking down at alarming rates.

It’s why we’ve decided to document every fire – more than 3,000 if the past few years are any indication. We’ll also provide in-depth analysis based on interviews, dispatch reports and thousands of pages of city records.

Photos of every fire are being posted at Motor City Mapping, a nonprofit effort to collect information and pictures of every parcel in the 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.