1951 Advertisement for Detroit Firefighters

Today in Detroit Fire History – June 3, 1951

Today in Detroit Fire History – June 3, 1951

On June 3, 1951 the department was advertising for new fire fighters. 

Applicants had to be between 5’8″ and 6’2″ tall and weigh between 140 and 190 pounds. 

June 3, 1951 advertisement

Pay for a newly hired firefighter was $3,413. A full paid man made $4,127. For comparison, the average household income was $3,515. The average cost of a new house was $9,000, a new car $1,500.  

A pay increase of $250 to $286 would go into effect on July 1st, the beginning of the city’s fiscal year.


Detroit Firefighter Line of Duty Death – Fred Bergman

Today in Detroit Fire Department History - April 4 1947

Detroit Fire Department Sergeant Fred Bergman made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the citizens of Detroit on April 4, 1947. At the time of his death Fred was assigned to Engine 32.

Initially it was thought that Bergman had become overcome by smoke while fighting a fire in a residence at 9343 E. Vernor. He was revived at the scene, but became ill while his company was returning to their quarters.


Sergeant Bergman was transported to Receiving Hospital. He passed away about 40 minutes after reaching the hospital. It was later found that he had suffered a heart attack.

At the time of his death Fred was 49 years old. He was a 23 year veteran of the department.

Fred left behind a wife and daughter.

Funeral Arrangements For 2 Detroit Fire Department Members Who Died While On Duty

Sgt. Vincent "Vinny" Smith, L-13 and Fireboat Capt. Walter Szelag

Funeral arrangements for two members of the Detroit Fire Department who passed away last week have been announced.

The two died in separate incidents just 2 days apart while on duty at two Detroit fire stations.

Related Story: Second Detroit Firefighter Death On Duty in 2 Days.

Last alarm information was issued by the Detroit Firemen’s Fund Association as follows:

Vincent H. Smith

ACTIVE Sergeant, Ladder 13
Lived: 02/06/1966 to 11/19/2015
Served: 08/10/1992 to 11/19/2015


 Visitation: Friday, November 27, 2015
James H. Cole Home for Funerals – NW Chapel
16100 Schaefer Hwy., Detroit, MI 48235
Visitation is open from 9:00am to 9:00pm
(The Smith family will be at the funeral home
to receive guests from 4:00pm to 7:00pm)

 Service: Saturday, November 28, 2015
Family Hour: 10:00am
Funeral 11:00am
Greater Life Apostolic Church
5276 Tireman, Detroit MI 48204

Interment: Detroit Memorial Park – East
4280 E. Thirteen Mile Rd., Warren, MI


Walter R. Szelag

ACTIVE Captain, Fireboat
Lived: 11/07/1950 to 11/20/2015
Served: 05/08/2002 to 11/20/2015


Memorial Visitation: Saturday, December 5, 2015 10:30 – 11:00am
St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church
7685 Grandville, Detroit, MI, 48228

Service: Saturday, December 5, 2015 11:00am
St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church
7685 Grandville, Detroit, MI, 48228


Second Detroit Firefighter Death On Duty in 2 Days

Another Sad Day For the Detroit Fire Department

Once again central office has delivered a radio message no firefighter wants to hear. fireboat


For the second time in 2 days the Detroit Fire Department grieves the lost another member who died while on duty. Walter Szelag, Captain of Fire Boat 1, passed away from what appears to be a heart attack.

At approximately 4:15 pm, November 20, 2015 crew members radioed for an ambulance to be sent to the fire boat station. Captain Szelag was transported to Detroit Receiving Hospital where he was pronounced dead.  At 5:47 pm department radios delivered the sad news. ““Central office regrets to inform you of the untimely death of Capt. Walter Szelag of Fire Boat 1.”

One firefighter reported that this was Captain Szelag’s last scheduled shift of the season before the Fire Boat is shut down for the winter.

Related Story: Funeral Arrangements For 2 Detroit Fire Department
Members Who Died While On Duty

Captain Szelag’s death comes on the heals of another Detroit Firefighter death. Just 2 days prior, November 18, 2015, Sgt. Vincent “Vinny” Smith passed away while on duty at Engine 48’s quarters.


Vinny Smith

Vincent “Vinny” Smith on the roof while he was a firefighter at Ladder 19.

He was found at approximately 7:30 am seated in his recliner.  At this point there an official cause of death has not been released, his death also appears to be from a heart attack.

Vinny served on the department for 23 years and was currently assigned to L-13. Sgt. Smith leaves behind a wife and 5 children.


Related Story: Funeral Arrangements For 2 Detroit Fire Department
Members Who Died While On Duty



36 Firemen All “Burned Up”

Today in Detroit Fire Department History – March 3, 1958

Thirty-six Detroit Firemen were plenty burned up today.

The members of Engine Co. 31 and Rescue Squad 4 each recently chipped in $6 to by a 24-inch table model television set.  The settled down to watch a favorite program when they got a fire call
– a flase alarm.

1958 Philco table top television set.

It took the firemen only seven minutes to make the three-mile round trip.  But when they returned they found they had missed not only the program.  The TV set was gone. Some one had taken it.

Source: The Sandusky Register- March 3, 1958


136 Gifts for Firefighters

If your loved one is a firefighters there’s a possibility he’s been hiding something from you. He hates the firefighting related gifts he receives.

He knows that the people who give them had the best of intentions.  But let’s be real.  Exactly how many statues of Dalmatians next to a fire hydrant does one person need?

With this in mind, I’ve put together a huge list of gift ideas that your firefighter will truly love.



1. Vintage fire department collectables

Fire alarm pull boxes, brass nozzles and vintage department photos are just some of the items that can be found on ebay. I would avoid badges and patches unless your firefighter is a badge or patch collector.


A word of warning: some items on ebay are listed from specific departments (especially large departments like Detroit and FDNY) may not be from those departments.  Do your homework, and read descriptions very carefully.

Handy Tools for Firefighters

2. Glove Strap

This handy strap will keep gloves together and ready for use, and frees up pocket space in bunker gear. 

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Detroit Fire’s Fireman Crooner Sings a Christmas Song For You.

Detroit firefighters hospitalized, rig failures, extreme cold and high winds make for a brutal night for Detroit Firefighters

Detroit firefighters responded to a fire in a two-story commercial building located on 8 Mile Road and Stansbury, the city’s northwest side. The building housed the General Merchandise Liquidation Surplus Outlet, which sold appliances, electronics and furniture.

Two firefighters were hospitalized for smoke inhalation after they crawled out of the building.  Initial reports from local new outlets are stating that their air tanks “apparently gave out”.  Footage of the firefighters exiting the building can be seen starting around the 30 second mark in this news report.

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The Rat Killers of Engine 5

In the days before streaming movies, internet and sports on demand channels, Detroit Firefighters found some very creative ways to entertain themselves and fill the time between runs.  Here’s an audio story that highlights a bit of that creative spirit.


The Rat Killers of Engine 5

You can hear all our stories and read more in our archives.


Sometimes Emergencies Are Funny!

One thing is certain.  Interact with enough people and you’re bound to see some funny things. Emergency calls are no exception.

Year after year. Run after run. With the volume of calls Detroit Fire handles, most don’t stand out. When an investigator asks about a fire from a few weeks ago, you have a hard time remembering which fire he’s referring to. But the funny calls. . . they stick with you forever.

Listen to other audio stories

Several years ago, I was detailed to Squad 1 for the day. We were running errands when we were dispatched to a still alarm. No information was given about the nature of the emergency. When we arrived, we were greeted by a young boy standing at the curb yelling enthusiastically, “There’s no fire! Mom’s hand is stuck in the toilet!”

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