Reading through a book published in 1898, “Landmarks of Detroit- A History of the City”, I found a passage on the history of the Detroit Fire Department. This is from a passage describing the time period around 1805, when nearly the entire city was destroyed by fire. Hope you find it as interesting as I did.
My first assignment with Detroit Fire Department 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.
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