Video by Michael Evans.
Part of our yearlong investigation of the beleaguered Detroit Fire Department.
When Detroit firefighters suit up for a run, they have come to expect just about anything.
Take Monday, as temperatures dipped below zero. Firefighters were called to an occupied house fire at 8066 Pressler on the east side. Bullet casings were strewn about from a fresh shooting. No police were on the scene.
Firefighters wasted no time extinguishing the blaze, nor did they hesitate when the house caught fire again a few hours later.
At an apartment fire that broke out at 9:48 a.m. at 5900 Michigan, two firefighters, two police officers and a tenant were injured after it appears a space heater sparked a fire that spread to several rooms in the three-story brick building. Luckily none of the injuries was serious.
At 6:45 p.m., firefighters arrived to a fire in the basement of a stately, two-story house at 1445 W. Chicago. But weak water pressure from the hydrants prevented firefighters from containing the blaze. When they tried to increase the pressure using Engine 39’s pump, the rig malfunctioned and was sent to the shop.
Soon after, Ladder 7’s aerial tower also malfunctioned, leaving firefighters outmatched as flames began to consume the home. (Four people died in April 2000 after one of Ladder 7’s former rigs failed to raise the aerial ladder to rescue people from the burning Pallister Plaissance Apartments.)
Between 7:28 p.m. and 7:51 p.m., fires broke out in two houses within a block of each other. And at 8:30 p.m., a civilian was injured at a house fire at 13095 Corbett.
During the 24-hour period, fires damaged or destroyed nine houses and three apartments.
Days like this are why we are tracking every fire this year – an estimated 3,000-plus in houses, apartments and other buildings, if the past few years are any indication. The city’s aging, long-neglected fleet of rigs is breaking down at an alarming rate; fire hydrants often don’t work; and station closures mean fires are burning longer and causing more damage.
Other stories in this series:
- Underreporting arson? Fire Department to change figures after our report.
- Man dies in house blaze just blocks from recently closed fire station.
- Fire Department wildly underreports arsons to FBI
- More than 220 houses, buildings burn in January; five rigs malfunction
- First week of February: Fires kill 2 brothers burn 26 houses, rigs malfunction
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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.