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.

Other stories in this series:

To help us sustain and improve the project throughout the year, please consider a donation.

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.

  • bebow

    Duggan’s true believers haven’t had a good look around in the neighborhoods outside of downtown and Midtown. The closed fire stations are ruined, as are the neighborhood schools, commercial properties, and at least half of the housing stock. There is no plan for decent people to return to the neighborhoods, but the city hopes to string us along for as long as it can with false promises and vague plans. Bing didn’t lie.

    Indirect means are being used to remove residents from unselected neighborhoods in order to downsize the city. This involves creating a toxic environment to force departure when neighborhoods are rendered unfit for habitation. We are almost there.

    First came the diversion of law enforcement, leaving certain areas with no police response for years. Next, there was the threat to shut off public lighting. Then, the fire stations were closed. Waves of tax foreclosures followed on properties so dishonestly assessed the practice should be considered criminal. The DWSD then got busy with shut-offs and collections it ignored for years. The arrival of Advanced Metering will probably finish the job.

    It’s time for truth telling.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      Sure bing lied, so did kwame, it was also always very vague, we are gonna knock down some number that sounds large like 500 houses, and that will fix everything. I remember kwame doing that three years in a row, I lol’ed knowing that is was not a dent, much less even close to keeping up with the newly torched.

      It was always super vague, sorta hopeful.

      This is not some backroom deal to remove people, its collapsing, this is organic.

      This is what happens when no one gets fired, everyone has a job for life, and you jack people on taxes, a large group of people leave, the remaining workers are now working even less, and they continue to not fire them …. taxes go up, peope say, this is shit, I am not paying taxes to be treated like this, then they still do not fire anyone, and only half the people pay property taxes.

      This is 30-40 years in the works. This is not some predators in the tall grass preying on detroit.

      Detroit chased away half of detroit, now the logical conclusion might be if anything is going to be done, it will have to be done in large half mile subs being built, or large industrial complexes, etc. But that is not even up for discussion till they get crime under control and the schools have to be BETTER than other large cities, not twice as bad.

      Nothing big is going to happen until crime is cut by about 70%, and we need to graduate as many kids as top 3 big city. If that does not happen, then nothing happens. There is nothing to be gained, until that happens all the houses and all the land are basically worthless.

  • Detroitfirefighter

    Ladder 14 was also never sent on a fire on Rofls Place just 2 blocks away and two children died 3-4 years back. This happened about two days after the station was re-opened. Engine 41 was on another fire so there were no truly “close” companies available. The city has been rolling the dice for years. More people die these days than they did in the 90’s when there were more companies and hundreds more firefighters. This area of the city was known as the 3rd battalion and at one time had engine 26 ladder 14 engine 23 squad 3 ladder 19 engine 41 engine 36 ladder 16 and chief 3. The only companies open on a daily basis are engine 41 and squad 3. 7 of 9 companies are closed or browned out daily(ladder 14).