Highland Park seeks public’s help after ladder truck destroyed by fire

Highland Park’s ladder truck before it caught fire. Photo by Steve Neavling.

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

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.