The Detroit Firemen’s Fund Association has been around for 147 years. Their mission is to help Detroit Firefighters, firefighters’ organizations and the community. You may recognize their latest project, The Michigan Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial Rig from the funeral of Wayne Westland Firefighter Brian Woelke.
Many people who know about The Fund don’t realize it is not run by City of Detroit or Detroit Fire Department management. It is an independent association whose membership is made up of exclusively by Detroit Firefighters, and run by an elected Board of Trustees.Continue reading →
The Detroit Fire Department suffered the loss of firefighters’ lives from a single incident in its history.
On the morning of October 5th, 1894 wood shavings in the basement of Keenan & Jahn’s Furniture Store caught fire. The fire quickly spread up the elevator shaft to the top of the 5 story building.Continue reading →
The hard times of the depression were also expressed in song. Detroit Moan, by Victoria Spivey was recorded in 1936. Ms. Spivey sings of the hardships of life in Detroit as the depression dragged on year after year.
My first assignment in 1973 was Engine 27 at Junction & Rogers. My Captain was Charlie Fisher. I worked with Best, Ventre, Haig, Mlinarich, Gurski, Klann, Kelly, Lisuk, Birmingham, Brachulis, Bartlett, Moyer, Foresi, Michinchak, Roman, Bitten, Brown, Lipscomb, Strach, Baxter, Hickman, Bryce, Dodson, Shirley, Pancake, Haney, Hoffman & Rocky.
There was a racket ball court on the 3rd floor, which we used often. The 7th Battalion was a lot slower back in those days. Rocky was the engine house mascot. Continue reading →
Did you know that Detroit Fire Department had a 2 time Mr. Michigan winner among it’s ranks?
Don Van Fleteren, Detroit Firefighter and bodybuilder won the title of Mr. Michigan in both 1952 and 1960. For a number of years, he also competed in the Mr. America contest where in 1955 he placed 3rd overall.
This 1960 press photo of Don is offered for sale by Historic Images. (www.historicimages.com) If you like historic photos, they’ve got a great selection.
The caption on the back of this press photo reads:
GUIDED MUSCLES Detroit, Mich: A mountain of muscle, Detroit Fireman Don Van Fleteren shows off the biceps that helped him win the title of Mr. Michigan of 1960. Chosen as a highlight of Michigan Week festivities, Van Fleteren is a 6′ 1 1/2″ 225-pounder, married and the father of a 5-year-old girl, the 31-year-old Hercules placed 3rd in the Mr. America Contest five years ago.
Strength and Health Magazine 1954 featuring Detroit Firefighter Don Van Fleteren on the cover.
The originally thought was to mow a vacant lot, pick up debris, and board up a few vacant houses on a single block of Campbell Street. What ended up happening surprised us.
It began when Detroit firefighters stationed in the area learned of a house being renovated by Nicole Curtis for her show Rehab Addict (which airs on HGTV and DIY Network). When you look at the area surrounding Nicole’s house you see a neighborhood that is still connected, still trying to hold on. Neighbors there know each other. They do their best to keep grass mowed and debris out of vacant lots. This is a neighborhood that has not given up, a neighborhood that just needed a boost.
This is just one of the reasons we choose this neighborhood. Residents here are working hard to maintain a sense of community pride.
Detroit Firemen’s Fund and DFDLegacy.com started spreading the word of the need for volunteers to help this southwest Detroit neighborhood. Help came in so many ways. Detroit and surrounding area firefighters, business that donated time and items, local media who helped highlight what items we needed, and most importantly, residents of the area came to help.
One of the best parts of this project was seeing young people from the area get involved. Several local kids jumped in without prompting from adults. They grabbed a pair of work gloves and started hauling brush to dumpsters. Although I know the brush can get out of control, and grass can grow long again, I am confident that the positive impression made on these young people will not soon fade.
We set out with the small goal of mowing a vacant lot and securing vacant houses on a single block, and together, we accomplished so much more than we had originally planned.
Overview of project accomplishments:
15 Vacant houses secured
Smoke detectors installed
Entire block’s sidewalks edged & weeds removed
4 vacant lots – removed debris & mowed
5- 30 yard dumpsters of debris removed
Trimmed tree branches that could cause injury or damage in a storm
Community garden area restored - removed logs, debris & mowed so the garden can be expanded next year
Cut overgrown brush and trees from a corner lot making sidewalks useable again and improved visibility for vehicle traffic at the intersection.
The true heros of this project are our volunteers. Without the hard work and sweat equity they gave, nothing could have been accomplished.
Our volunteers included:
Over 40 Firefighters from:
Detroit Fraser Shelby Twp. Imlay City Wayne/Westland
Local residents – including many children and young adults
People from several other comunities
Crews provided with specialized equipment from our donors.
Over 70 people total (we did not get the name of everyone involved, so a true total is not available. We think we were closer to 100 volunteers)
Donors Overview: Donations of much needed items were provided by the following:
All Seasons Grounds Maintenance – provided a crew and lawn maintenance equipment
The third Detroit Fire Department Headquarters building, located at 250 W. Larned, (Larned & Washington Blvd.) was completed. This replaced the previous headquarters located at Wayne & Larned.
It was designed by Hans Gehrke. Mr. Gehrke designed several fire stations in the city during the 1920s abd 1930s.
The 5 story building’s first floor originally housed fire apparatus assigned to cover the growing downtown area. Other floors of the building were designated as living quarters for the men assigned there and offices for department administrations. In the later years of this building’s use as headquarters fire companies were reassigned to other stations, and the building was use solely for adminsistrative offices.