Video Of Saturday's Church Fire Puts A Bankrupt City's Woes On Full Display

May 11, 2014, 12:02 PM

BoxAlarmDetroit, a YouTube feed that specializes in covering Detroit fires, has posted a video of the ferocious two-alarm blaze in the abandoned Woodward Avenue church Saturday morning. The video provides viewers with an unusual snapshot of how the bankrupt city's problems play out on a daily basis, and how its employees, who face cuts to health care and pensions, carry out their duties despite the challenges.

The fire scene is within sight of the land on which the new Red Wings arena is about to rise.

The video is accompanied by Detroit Fire Department radio traffic.

Also of note: Scenes of the rising sun, seen though the smoking ruins of a 19th Century church.

Problem 1: At 0:00 on the video...Engine 1's officer radios the dispatcher that his crew spots smoke nearby as they leave the scene of a vehicle fire. Car fires are a common occurrence in Detroit, and in a city that burns as much as Detroit, it's not unheard of for fire crews at one scene to spot smoke from another incident.

Problems 2 and 3: 0:20...Engine 1 finds the church engulfed in flames. It's the stately First Unitarian Church on Woodward, built in 1889. It was abandoned, one of the city's best-known afflictions. Homeless people reportedly were using the church for shelter, an example of Detroit's entrenched poverty.  

Saturday's sunrise over Detroit is eerily framed in the ruins of a 19th Century church.

Problem 4: 2:50...An officer of one of the rigs on the scene tells the chief "We are seriously in need of some water pressure," a frequent issue for firefighters who constantly have to deal with Detroit's aged infrastructure. The chief responds that the water department has been contacted, but a representative had not shown up.

Problem 5: 3:28...Ladder 7, one of the most important rigs on the scene, begins to overheat, and the chief asks for a replacement.

Problem 6: 3:50...The chief calls for an arson investigator, telling him a "DOJ person" -- Department of Justice -- had arrived on the scene, informing the chief the people who owned the church wanted to demolish it, but were stymied because it had historic protection. Arson is a huge problem in Detroit, and the arson squad is so understaffed that it can investigate only a small percentage of the suspicious fires. The chief's message was vague, but it suggests federal agents, who rarely show up at Detroit fires, especially early Saturday morning, were watching the church as part of an investigation. 

Problem 7: 4:40...Engine 9 catches fire. So during the battle to put out the chiurch fire, one of the rigs had to take time out to extinguish the fire in Engine 9. That is not supposed to happen, but given the age and condition of Detroit's overworked rigs, it has happened in the past. It sounds surreal to hear the chief, at the scene of a two-alarm blaze, telling the dispatcher, "Engine 9 is going to have to shut down; they're burning up. Engine 9 is on fire."


Read more:  YouTube/BoxAlarmDetroit

Leave a Comment:

Photo Of The Day