Sep 13, 2010
Detroit was hit by a wave of fire on September 7th, leveling whole blocks in a single day.
The initial cause for most of this conflagration was downed power lines. There were more than 750 broken lines, live wires, throwing off sparks.
Damage from the fire was increased by the fire department’s usual slow response times.
Mix into that a windy day, and what started as 10 fires soon became 85. A fire in a garage spread to nine houses, another to 17. Seventy-one buildings were severely damaged.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and the media were quick to call the day of fires a “natural disaster,” blaming it on the wind.
DTE, the local power company, rushed to blame “illegal” electrical hookups for the downed lines.
Local residents had another story. There were downed lines because DTE wasn’t doing its work. Residents had been calling about downed lines for days – including some “illegal” hook-ups – getting no response. And they haven’t seen DTE trim tree limbs for years – a sure cause of problems in high winds. Obviously, since DTE – like every other company – has been massively cutting jobs.
As for the fire department’s slow response time – blame years of ongoing city budget cuts. The few 911 operators were swamped with calls, blocking the number for incoming calls. On the day of the fires, eight of the city’s 66 fire companies were out of commission on one of the city’s unpaid “furlough day.” The head of the firefighters’ union said the city hasn’t hired new firefighters for 20 years!
This day of massive fire destruction was a disaster alright – entirely man-made, totally preventable. And it was the result of decades of cutbacks in jobs by local governments as well as private companies.