Bill McGraw had a heartbreaker in the Freep today, about a fatal fire in southwest Detroit last week, one where the two closest pumpers were out of service for “staffing reasons.” They weren’t in service because the city couldn’t pay firefighters to staff them. A third pumper, also closer, was taken out of service permanently three years ago, for the same reason. You want to read some chilling statistics? How about these:
In May, the Free Press reported that 22% of the city’s 66 firefighting vehicles either were unavailable to answer alarms or were working with broken equipment.
On the day Marian Rembis died, 27% of the fire vehicles were out of service or working with acknowledged defects — such as ladder trucks with ladders that won’t rise. Ten rigs in good condition sat idle in their quarters that day because the department couldn’t staff them.
The problems play out every day, though mostly beyond public view.
Battalion chiefs, who supervise at fire scenes, sometimes can be heard on the radio begging dispatchers to send them a truck with a functioning ladder, even though their bosses discourage them from speaking so explicitly over public airwaves.
On Feb. 6, the first ladder truck — Ladder 10 — to arrive at the scene of what became a five-alarm fire at the Forest Arms apartment building near Wayne State University did not have a working ladder, but it was not needed to perform immediate rescues. Ladder 10’s ladder has been broken since at least early January, firefighters said.
If a city has any business collecting taxes at all, job one is public safety. Police and fire. In recent years it’s become fashionable for city government to venture into economic development, and I have no objection, but only as long as they’re still covering the basics. In some respects, the city’s police department has all the money they need, certainly enough to give the mayor a publicly funded security entourage that’s said to be the biggest in the nation for a mayor. I went out to dinner with the girls the other night, and one was talking about a Democratic fundraiser in Grosse Pointe Farms. The governor, a woman, showed up with one state police officer working as driver and escort. The mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, arrived a few moments later in a black Cadillac Escalade with a full complement of muscle. Because the GP can be a pretty dangerous place, I guess.
A few weeks ago, Metro Times columnist Jack Lessenberry chided those of us who were giggling over the text-message scandal, saying it was only lurid cover for real tragedy, the ongoing tragedy of Detroit and, in a larger sense, all of rustbelt urban America, and I’ve come to see he’s right. This is like the comic relief in Hamlet, but while you might smile at the Poor Yorick scene, there’s no denying the stage will be covered with bodies at the final curtain. It takes an event like this fire to remind us that one of the bodies will be a 37-year-old Down Syndrome victim, too scared to run out of a burning house and too far from a fully staffed fire station to get help in time.
The Metro Times lays out its case for resignation in this week’s issue, by the way.
Forgive me the late posting today. I’m having one of those days. The Committee has been working overtime this week, and I simply could not get over the hump without some extra morning sleep today, which I accomplished by skipping the morning coffee and going back to bed once Kate had been shuffled out the door. I got my sleep, but woke up with a caffeine-deprivation headache, which is pretty absurd when you think about it — you can’t sleep because you haven’t had any coffee. Also, my rededication to the gym this week reveals, once again, just how stiff and out of shape I am. So here I sit, headache-y, muscle ache-y, ache-y break-y. In a few minutes I’m going to get a shower, then head off to Starbucks for some medicine. An ibuprofen latte, please (aka triple espresso).
Hearing William F. Buckley Jr. has died is having no effect on my day, Danny. I can’t say anything bad about him. He started something, and others are ending it now, and I’ve got to think he’d disapprove of what’s become of his beloved conservative movement. Never cared for his twee affectations, but give him this: The man died in the saddle. At his desk. Writing something. That’s how I want to go. (If this headache gets any worse, that may well be my fate.)
Granted, a lot of what he wrote was crap, but Michael Jordan missed a lot of baskets, too.
What I’m mainly dreading is the reaction. After reading Ann Coulter’s eulogy for her daddy — Now Daddy is with Joe McCarthy and Ronald Reagan. I hope they stop laughing about the Reds long enough to talk to God about smiting some liberals for me. — I can only imagine what they’ll say about Bill. I’m virtually certain we can expect a goo-fest from Tim Goeglein. He was a regular weekend guest on Bill’s piece of Connecticut waterfront. Huh — so was Rod Dreher:
Just this past weekend, Julie and I were talking about the time we went to the Buckleys’ Connecticut house on the water, and we were both kind of intimidated by the indomitable Mrs. Buckley. Then she sat down next to Julie and they started talking about gardening, and the evil of squirrels. Pat, with her smoker’s cackle, said she used to lie in bed upstairs at their place and take aim with her .22 rifle at the little bulb-eating bastards in the yard. It was hilarious to hear her this locked-and-loaded socialite talk about her adventures in gardening with gunpowder. Julie and I laughed in recalling the humanity of the Buckleys. That’s how they are.
Proof Dreher isn’t the Right Sort: Well brought-up girls have been taught hunting skills by their daddies for generations. Ask Ann Coulter.
Anyway, I never met the old gasbag, but I did meet his son, Christopher, who was easily one of the nicest and most charming fellows I’ve ever had the pleasure of making small talk with. Whatever part of that he owes to the old man, he couldn’t have been all bad.