Did You Know #005 – Detroit Firefighter / Mr. Michigan

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.

1960 don van fleteren front

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:

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.

don van fleteren detroit firefighter

Strength and Health Magazine 1954 featuring Detroit Firefighter Don Van Fleteren on the cover.

Did you Know? – Many of Our Nation’s Founding Fathers Were Firefighters

Did you know?

At least eight of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, including Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, were firefighters?

! founding fathers

Research done by a Tufts University Professor, Benjamin Carp draws a correlation between the principals of pre-revolutionary volunteer fire companies and how they became a blueprint for our nation’s political system.

Referring to fire companies, Carp writes: “Franklin, Adams, and many of their brother firemen applied these principles of equality, voluntarism, mutual endeavor, public safety and active self-government to their understanding of the American Revolution and consequently paved the way for a republican political system independent from Great Britain.

Did You Know? – The First Recorded Fire in Detroit

Did you know, that the first recorded fire in Detroit occurred in 1701. 


At that time Detroit was a fort, Fort Ponchatrain, with log stockade walls.  Indians set fire to a barn located outside the stockade.  High winds spread the flames and it consumed 3 houses and St. Ann’s Church before it was extinguished.


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Did You Know? – #0002

Prior to 1985 Detroit Firefighters did not have individual facepieces for their breathing protection?  Prior to that facepieces were shared.


If you’ve never worn a facepiece, the significance of this may be lost.  Would you be happy having to put a mask on when the last guy who wore it had a runny nose, or worse yet got sick in it while fighting a fire the night before.  No amount of cleaning would give you piece of mind.

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Did You Know? – # 0001

The first jaws of life used by Detroit Fire Department were actually a set of hydraulic tools used by bump shops for auto repair?

I’m told that when they were purchased “the city got a deal on them.”  

Typically when that has been said about equipment, the equipment was already outdated, previously used, or simply not the quality needed to stand up to the heavy use from Detroit Fire.

Not such a good deal


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