Deadly fire breaks out in house near 3 closed firehouses in Detroit

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Dennis Monde was found dead in his second-floor bedroom on 17th Street. Photo by Steve Neavling.

By the time firefighters arrived, flames were tearing through the windows of a second-floor bedroom on Detroit’s west side.

“There’s a guy in there,” a neighbor shouted to firefighters, who battled heavy smoke and fire to reach the bedroom at 17th St. and W. Forest. But it was too late.

Dennis Monde died in the fire.
Dennis Monde died in the fire.

Dennis Monde, a father in his 50s and the neighborhood handyman, was dead.

About 8 minutes before firefighters arrived, at 12:45 a.m. Thursday, Valerie Smith called 911 to report flames emerging from Monde’s house.

But the nearest fire companies – Engine 10, Engine 31 and Engine 5 – were all closed because of cuts made by Mayor Dave Bing in 2012. Less than a month ago, a 73-year-old man died in the same area, and his house was engulfed by the time firefighters arrived.

Bing cut 15 fire companies in 2012 as part of a desperate, failed attempt to stave off emergency management.

The company closures have hampered response times, forcing firefighters to travel longer to extinguish more fires.

On Thursday evening, Smith grieved for her friend.

“I miss him so much,” she said, tears spilling down her cheeks. “I just can’t believe it. He was such a nice guy.”

Arson investigators are trying to determine the cause.

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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