Second Detroit firefighter dies in two days while on duty

fire department

Just one day after a firefighter was found dead in his southwest Detroit firehouse, the captain of the city’s fire boat died today after an apparent heart attack.

Firefighters called for an ambulance at the fire boat station and tried to resuscitate Capt. Walter Szelag at 4:17 p.m., but he was pronounced dead at Detroit Receiving Hospital.

“We need an ambulance here,” a firefighter radioed to dispatch. “It looks like I have a crew member with a heart attack.”

At 5:47 p.m., a dispatcher delivered the sad news to firefighters: “Central office regrets to inform you of the untimely death of Capt. Walter Szelag of Fire Boat 1.”

On Thursday morning, firefighters found Sgt. Vince Smith dead at Engine 48’s firehouse in southwest Detroit. The city said the 23-year veteran of the Fire Department appeared to die of natural causes.



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.

  • banmar

    My heart goes out to Capt. Szelag’s family, friends and fellow Bravest. They tried so hard to save him. Condolences, too, to the city of Detroit and the citizens he, too, loved and worked so hard to protect. The closed stations, lack of personnel, trucks held together with seat belt parts and the former leadership who didn’t have his employees’ backs caused so much extra stress for so many Detroit firefighters. I am so sorry for the loss of these two firemen.

  • Donald E. Hodge

    To the Detroit Fire Department family, and the captains family. If there is anything. And I mean anything that we can do, Please let us know. Love all of you. Peace and take care.

  • bebow

    What the…? Too much stress.