Reporting Marie Osborne
DETROIT (WWJ) - Most Detroiters say safety is the number one issue facing the city of Detroit.
As the Midtown and downtown areas continue to thrive, many in the neighborhoods say fire safety is often a bigger concern than crime.
WWJ Newsradio 950′s Marie Osborne, continues her series “Tale of Two Cities” examining the plight of the Detroit firefighters and the Detroit communities that have to live with burned out homes in their neighborhoods.
The men at this fire house say their jobs have become harder and more dangerous as the city’s deterioration has accelerated.
“Twenty times in the last year that I’ve worked we were one fire away from, I would say, a catastrophic event,” said a Detroit firefighter.
The city has nearly 80,000 abandoned structures, it’s one of their biggest challenges.
A fire in an unstable – abandoned building presents deadly challenges to firefighters, floors could cave in and roofs can collapse in the blink of an eye and sometimes they hold gruesome surprises.
“We had people that have actually been frozen in some of these houses and they are found frozen in the basement because … the water is just constantly running,” said one Detroit firefighter.
This firehouse sits as an oasis in a neighborhood ravaged by neglect. “We’ll go and go but it’s getting a lot tougher now with less fire companies and less manpower, fewer people on the actual firetrucks.”
These firefighters say the development in Midtown and downtown Detroit is great but the city’s financial turmoil has taken a toll on the people.
“You feel for the people, they deserve better.”
The homes left behind in the wake of fires and financial abandonment has led to The New York Times proclaiming the city of Detroit as “The Abandon Home Capital of the World”.
Detroit’s dilapidated neighborhoods taking on the moniker “Ruin Porn” for international photographers.
The abandoned building epidemic brings with it another problem: squatters.
“That’s the new thing, everybody’s doing, like everybody’s squattin’,” said one man. “Why would you pay when you could squat for five years for free?”
One community group says nearly half of the city’s abandoned homes have squatters in them.
Detroit City Councilman Gary Brown, as the head of the Committee of Building and Safety says, right now, there is little the city can do?
“The issue is this, you know, we have about 80,000 structures that need to come down,” he said. “They need to come down and we don’t have the money. It takes about $10,000 to tear down each house – on average. Some a little less, some a little more. And so we don’t have the money. Right now we are out of funding for demolition.”
Brown says the city is staggering under its crime, education and housing problems. He blames the city leadership, and some of its citizens, for not being honest about the challenges.
“It’s like being an alcholic, what’s the first thing you need to do … you need to admit that you are broken,” Brown said.
WWJ Newsradio 950′s Marie Osborne reports on the changing landscape in the city of Detroit in her series “Tale of Two Cities” this week. Listen on WWJ Newsradio 950 and come back to CBSDetroit.com each day for more.