Running Into the Fire: Firefighters Risk It All to Keep Burning Detroit Suburb Alive

By ABC News

Apr 25, 2014 3:52pm

By ARISTIDES PINEDO-BURNS, ASHLEY LOUSZKO and LAUREN EFFRON

Highland Park, Mich., a once-thriving Detroit suburb, seems like a burnt-out, forgotten wasteland, but the men and women of the Highland Park Fire Department are determined to save it, risking their lives to put out rampant fires for little in return.

The Highland Park Fire Department is one of the most active departments in the country. While some departments in other suburbs may see two to three fires a month, the Highland Park Fire Department battles two to three fires per week.

In performing this dangerous job, some Highland Park firefighters make about $10 an hour, and about half of them work part-time, which means they don’t get health benefits. But they keep risking their lives to protect their community.

Highland Park used to be known as “the city of cities.” But since the auto industry fell on hard times, every third house now stands vacant. The streets are dotted with burnt out schools, churches and storefronts.

Many of the fires in Highland Park are caused by arson, fire officials said, but others are from fires built by the homeless that get out of hand. The city that seems to never stop burning has become one of the most dangerous in the country.

“Nightline” spent days with the Highland Park Fire Department during “Devil’s Week,” a yearly event around Halloween that is marred by violence and arson in Detroit, to find out what drives these firefighters to repeatedly run into the fire.

Watch ABC’s Dan Harris’ full report for “Nightline” in the video above.

 

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