The Highland Park Fire Department lost a critical part of its fleet after fighting a fire in Detroit.
Highland Park’s ladder truck was returning from the fire on March 8 when its engine caught fire. It was the department’s only ladder truck, which is essential to fighting fires in taller buildings, like apartments.
Now the busy, budget-strapped fire department is looking for the public’s help to replace the ladder truck with a 2016 Smeal demonstration model, which costs about $1.2 million. Fire photographer and videographer Alex Haggart, known as “Alex the Fire Chaser,” set up a GoFundMe campaign for the department.
Highland Park Fire Chief Kevin Coney said it would likely cost $2 million to fix the broken ladder truck, which is a refurbished Sutphen that the city bought for $300,000 in 2013. Although the truck was insured, the city doesn’t expect to receive anywhere near enough to cover the cost of a new rig.
“We need something now,” Coney told me. “We aren’t begging. We’re just asking for people to open up their hearts.”
Highland Park responds to a lot of fires in Detroit because of a mutual aid agreement with the Motor City. On March 8, a windstorm left Detroit without enough firefighters to keep up with the blazes, so Highland Park was responding to a lot of fires in Detroit.
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.