fire

House fire in Detroit.
Dave Hogg / Flickr

"Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus."

 "We Hope for Better Things; It Shall Rise From the Ashes."

Fr. Gabriel Richard wrote that after a tremendous fire in 1805 that destroyed most of Detroit.

Those words from the French-Canadian priest became the motto of city - a city whose history is filled with many different kinds of fires.

Michael Jackman spells out this history in his story for The Metro Times.

Listen to our conversation with Jackman below.


Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Thirty students from Michigan fire departments, sheriff’s offices and other public safety agencies have spent the past two weeks learning about fire.

An old farmhouse served as a learning laboratory on Thursday for the fledgling fire investigators. Different rooms of the empty home south of Lansing were set on fire; the students had to figure out exactly how those fires were started.

Lenny Jaskulka is a specialist sergeant with the Michigan State police. He says there’s a lot to learn to become a certified fire scene investigator.

Fire breaks out at Marathon refinery in Detroit

Apr 28, 2013
www.marathonpetroleum.com

A Marathon Petroleum spokesman says no one was hurt after a fire at a refinery in Detroit.

Shane Pochard tells The Associated Press the fire started Saturday evening in one of the smaller tanks at the Marathon Petroleum refinery. He says the fire has been put out and the cause is being investigated.

Pochard says no employees or contractors were injured. He says Marathon Petroleum has conducted extensive air monitoring in the neighborhood where the refinery is located and the area is safe.

YPSILANTI TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - A fire has heavily damaged a building at a Washtenaw County apartment complex, displacing 12 families.

The fire broke out Monday afternoon at the Schooner Cove apartment complex in Ypsilanti Township, east of Ann Arbor.

Township Fire Chief Eric Copeland tells AnnArbor.com that the fire started in a second- or third-floor apartment at the front of the building.

Copeland says the cause of the fire isn't yet known.

Steven Depolo / Creative Commons

The so-called quick response vehicles are a cross between a four-wheel-drive SUV used to respond to medical emergencies, and fire engines with all the equipment to put out fires.

Grand Rapids’ Deputy Fire Chief Frank Verburg says the department will deploy three of the quick response vehicles for now. They have a 300-gallon water tank and a small fire suppression foam system.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint voters have approved a property tax hike to pay for public safety.

The six mill increase will add about $79 to the annual property tax bill for the average Flint home owner.

Flint mayor Dayne Walling says the vote shows the “absolute support” city residents have for the city’s police officers and firefighters.

“They want those services. They want to support those departments,” says Walling, “And now we’re going to deliver on that commitment.”

Flint’s police and fire departments faced possible layoffs if the property tax hike was not approved.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint voters face a tough choice on Election Day.

Agree to a big property tax increase…or face even more cuts to the city’s overburdened police and fire departments.

On November Sixth, Flint voters will decide if they are willing to pay an additional 6 mills on their property taxes or about 79 dollars extra a year for the average home owner.    

Supporters say about five million dollars would be raised for police and fire protection.

Flint set a record for homicides two years ago.     And could do it again this year.   Flint’s arson rate has exploded as well.

fire
Marcus Obal / creative commons

Some forensic science often used in police investigations is being called into question.

PBS' Frontline did an excellent series calling out the questionable science behind many arson cases.

In "Death by Fire" they showed how testimony from so-called fire experts led to the convictions of people for arson.

In one case, a potentially innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham, was put to death in Texas based on questionable fire evidence.

Did Texas execute an innocent man?

Several controversial death penalty cases are currently under examination in Texas and in other states, but it's the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham -- convicted for the arson deaths of his three young children -- that's now at the center of the national debate.

Today, we hear the story of David Lee Gavitt from the Detroit Free Press. Gavitt, from Ionia, was convicted in 1986 of first-degree felony murder for the deaths of his wife and two young daughters in a house fire. He was sentenced to life in prison.

His conviction was overturned and he was released yesterday after spending 26 years in prison.

His first stop, the grave sites of his wife and daughters.

"It was a very emotional scene," said David Moran, a law professor and co-founder of the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, which fought for the release of 54-year-old David Lee Gavitt. Moran said 15-20 of Gavitt's family members also arrived to welcome him home.

Since Gavitt's conviction in 1986, fire science has advanced significantly. A fire science expert, John Lentini, reviewed some of the evidence in Gavitt's case for the Innocence Clinic:

He told the clinic that the burn patterns that had caused investigators to suspect arson weren't caused by an accelerant, like gasoline, but by flashover -- a then-misunderstood phenomenon in which a closed room fills with toxic gases and bursts into flames.

"In light of modern fire science, there is simply not one shred of credible evidence that the fire at the Gavitt residence was intentionally set," Lentini said in a 65-page affidavit the clinic presented last September to Judge Hoseth Kreeger.

As Frontline points out, there are several arson cases around the country being reviewed. And the case of Cameron Todd Willingham has caused experts to re-examine old assumptions:

These include assumptions about fire patterns on floors and v-shaped marks on walls, the identifying characteristics of an accelerant, and what happens to glass windows during a blaze. Gerald Hurst, who wrote a report discrediting the evidence used against Willingham in a last-minute death row appeal, declared: “One might well wonder how anyone could make so many critical errors in interpreting the evidence.”

Seney wildfire
USFWS

SENEY, Mich. (AP) - Officials say a wildfire believed to have been triggered by lightning has expanded to at least 3,200 acres of a wildlife refuge in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says crews are working Thursday to control the fire at Seney National Wildlife Refuge. High winds and dry conditions have hampered firefighting efforts.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the blaze that was estimated at 2,500 acres Wednesday had spread to at least 3,200 acres Thursday.

So far, no injuries or building damage have been reported.

Michigan Highway 28 remains open as aerial control efforts succeed in limiting the spread south of the highway.

The fire started Sunday. The refuge covers 95,000 acres in northern Schoolcraft County, about 85 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie.

Michigan Municipal League

Lansing’s mayor is scrapping plans to build a new police headquarters, at least for now.

Mayor Virg Bernero included more than $400,000 in his budget proposal for next year to pay for design and engineering plans for a new consolidated police headquarters.

But Wednesday,  the mayor announced he wants to redirect that money to a fund to pay for 11 police officer positions currently supported by a federal grant that expires in 2015.

user KFearnside / wikimedia commons

DETROIT (AP) - U.S. safety regulators have expanded an investigation into Jeep Wrangler fires.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is asking Chrysler for information about Wranglers from 2007 through 2012.

That is an expansion of a probe that began March 28, and focused on vehicles from the 2010 model year.

Chrysler makes Jeeps. It sold more than 532,000 Wranglers from 2007 through March.

The government says 23 Wrangler owners have complained about fires. Complaints say four people were hurt and two houses were damaged. Three of the injuries were minor burns.

Chrysler had no immediate comment on the expanded probe Wednesday. It has said the Wrangler meets or exceeds all safety standards and has an excellent safety record.

An investigation can lead to a recall.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s emergency manager is talking with city unions.  The talks may be critical to coming up with a way to solve the city’s multi-million dollar budget deficit.

Flint Emergency Manager Michael Brown briefed the city council last night on where things stand on correcting the city’s financial troubles.   Flint faces an $11 million budget deficit this year.

City of Muskegon

Tony Kleibecker is leaving his post as Muskegon's public safety director.

From the Muskegon Chronicle:

Muskegon Public Safety Director Tony Kleibecker is returning to his roots at Michigan State University, accepting a university administrative position and leaving the city Aug. 31.

Kleibecker submitted his letter of resignation to Muskegon City Manager Bryon Mazade Wednesday morning, indicating he will end 11 years of service with the city. Kleibecker is leaving Muskegon to become assistant director for administration and communication with the MSU Police Department, he told his staff.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Jackson voters will be asked next Tuesday if they want to merge their city police and fire departments.  It’s a decision that is dividing the southern Michigan city. Jackson, like many Michigan cities, is struggling to balance its budget. Tuesday’s vote to create a public safety department is a result of that. 

Interim City Manager Warren Renando says Tuesday’s vote is about better allocating what little money the city has left to spend.