The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Highland Park Fire Left to Burn

Jan 15, 2024

A family of five was forced to jump from their second-floor apartment when a fire destroyed their building in Highland Park, Michigan, on New Year’s Day. Highland Park is a separate, financially strapped city within the city limits of Detroit.

It turns out a Detroit fire crew initially stopped at the scene and had carried a hose line into the building but left before Highland Park firefighters arrived, and the fire continued to burn. Brandon Lightsey says, "We noticed there was no urgency to put out the fire," so he made the difficult decision to jump and then yelled for his wife, Sharon Mayhawk, to throw their three kids, aged one-, three- and five years old, out the window, which she did before jumping herself. In addition to being homeless, the family naturally remains traumatized.

Highland Park Fire Chief Erik Hallowell was critical of the Detroit Fire Department, saying, "Times like that you just do your job, you put the politics, attitudes, you put that to the side." Detroit Fire Chief Charles Simms initially had plenty of excuses, saying, "Detroit has no obligation to go to Highland Park. It’s only a request, and we were never requested." He also said his crew left the burning building because they were called away to another emergency in Detroit.

The two chiefs eventually met and said they agreed to "tweak some protocols regarding mutual aid," according to CBS Detroit. That, however, does nothing for the Mayhawk family or the other residents of their four-unit apartment building. Chief Hollowell said he believes the building could have been saved if the Detroit fire crew had stayed to put the fire out.

Even assuming Detroit’s fire crew was needed elsewhere, what does it say that the fire department for a city the size of Detroit is so strapped for resources that they would leave it up to parents to jump and throw their three young children out a window to save them?

The real culprits behind such a ridiculous dilemma are the politicians so busy giving away billions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies to billionaires and huge corporations that there’s no money for working people to expect basic services like having their homes and their families protected from a fire.