Stateside: Detroit firefighters documented in "BURN"

Dec 6, 2012

Firefighter Walter Harris was killed in 2008 while attempting to put out a blazing abandoned building.

The headlines surrounding Harris’s death caught the attention of Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez.

Both filmmakers agreed a story deserved to be told about Harris and other Detroit firefighters.  

“Tom and I knew there was a story here that hadn’t been told about firefighters,” said Sanchez.

The story manifested into the new film, "BURN."

According to Putnam, the process of raising funds for "BURN" was tumultuous.

“We went to every broadcaster, every network and they all said the same thing: There is no audience for a firefighter movie. We ended up raising our entire budget through charitable donations,” said Putnam.

Firefighter Dave Parnell was one of the firefighters with whom Putnam and Sanchez spoke.

Initially, Parnell was dubious. He did not know what to expect from either filmmaker.

However, once Putnam and Sanchez started talking with Parnell, the firefighter offered his help.

“We risk everything when we go through a fire, why not risk a little something and try to help these guys get the word out,” said Parnell.

The filmmakers attached HD cameras to the firefighters’ helmets, initiating a collaborative process with the men at Engine 50.

The film exposed a greater despair looming around Parnell.

“It’s sad when you literally watch your city crumble around you,” said Parnell.

The firefighters both Sanchez and Putnam have encountered share a similar work ethic and general integrity.

“It’s pretty rare in life to be around a group of people from so many backgrounds that all have a common goal and love what they do. Sometimes people look at Detroit and use it as an example of what’s wrong with America and then you spend time with these guys and see they represent such a strong work ethic,” said Putnam.

-Cameron Stewart

There are two ways you can podcast "Stateside with Cynthia Canty"