Detroit replaces rescue squad with pickup truck; another rig breaks down

Squad 5 broke down along the side of the road. By Steve Neavling
Squad 5 broke down along the side of the road. By Steve Neavling

Less than one month after Detroit’s top fire official claimed the city’s fleet of rigs was “up to snuff,” two of the department’s six rescue squads broke down this weekend.

The city’s fleet is so sparse that Squad 3, which needs its front-end rebuilt, was replaced with a pickup truck.

And on Sunday night, Squad 5 broke down along Livernois, and its crew called for a tow truck. Firefighters had no replacement rigs available as of early Monday afternoon.

Rescue squads are critical to the fleet because they are used to rescue people from burning houses and car accidents. They carry the Jaws of Life, generators, saws, axes, EMS supplies and other emergency equipment.

Some of the squads also are called to help people suffering heart attacks, strokes and other life-threatening conditions.

Mayor Mike Duggan’s office said the city is addressing the mechanical problems as quickly as possible and plans to have six new squads during the first quarter of next year.
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Squad 3, which is stationed at 1818 E. Grand Blvd., is expected to get a replacement rig after it undergoes repairs later today, and the crew should have its truck back later in the week, Duggan’s spokesman John Roach told us today.

“Squad 5 had some mechanical and body damage issues from a prior accident, and we don’t have an estimated timeframe at this point for when it will be back in service,” Roach said.
In August, Motor City Muckraker published a story that showed that the city was sending dangerously defective rigs to fires because of mismanagement and neglect. Executive Fire Commissioner Edsel Jenkins quickly disputed our story, which was the result of an 18-month investigation, saying the fleet “has never been in better condition” and is “up to snuff.”

In the week after that, at least four rigs broke down, and defective fire engines and ladder trucks were sent to blazes, causing flames to spread to occupied houses.

On Aug. 10, the fire department ran out of rigs to send to fires on the east side.

Detroit recently received nine new engines from a loan following the bankruptcy.

This is part of our yearlong examination of the fire department, called “Detroit is burning.”

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.

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