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


We’re losing another good guy. FEO Donald Carlson retires.

Congratulations on your retirement FEO Donald Carlson!
Wishing you a long an happy retirement.

Pop can system fails! Now replace by Detroit Fire wooden block alert.

Move over pop can alert, here comes the Detroit Fire Wooden Block Alert!

By now you’ve seen the Colbert Report on Detroit Fire’s pop can alert system. After it aired several tech firms have stepped up offering free alert systems to fix the problem. However, for one Detroit firehouse the problem is now getting worse rather than better.

Day 3 With No Alert

As of this writing, the station is beginning day 3 of no phones, no computer and no printer, which means no alert system. Instead, department radios are being monitored around-the-clock for calls in their area.

Detroit-Fire-wooden block-alert-system

Detroit Fire Wooden Block Alert System

Firefighters tend to be creative and industrious by nature, so it is no surprise that firefighters at this station have come up with a method to circumvent the currently broken system.

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Detroit Firemen’s Field Day – A Long Standing Tradition

Detroit Firemen’s Field Day holds a special place in the hearts of those who grew up the child of a Detroit Firefighter. Every year Dad would the pack family and as many neighborhood kids as he could fit in the car to go to Field Day. One, now grown, firemen’s kid wrote “To me, Field Day was the same portent of fall that the State Fair is. It made me feel so proud!”

The First Detroit Firemen’s Field Day

The first Detroit Firemen’s Field Day was held at Navin Field (at Michigan & Trumbull) in 1922. The tradition has continued every year since, with the exception of 1933. It has been held in a variety of locations including: Briggs Stadium, University of Detroit, Tiger’s Stadium, Hart Plaza, Ford Field, and is currently held at Historic Fort Wayne.

Apparatus Parade from the 1974 Field Day held at Tiger's Stadium

Apparatus Parade from the 1974 Field Day held at Tiger’s Stadium

Those who attended Field Day would be treated to games, clowns, the Fire Department Band, exciting acts relating to firefighter skills, fire apparatus displays, dignitaries would attend, for many years there would be a raffle of 25 new cars (now replaced with a 50/50 raffle) and in years gone by the day would end with a fireworks display.

Detroit Fire Clown Team’s ties to Field Day

The Detroit Fire Clown team has it’s roots in Field Day. The Clown Team was officially formed in 1947 by Firefighter Larry Scarpace with seven firefighters to perform for the annual Field Day. Prior to that, clowns had been a part of Field Day, but not as an official team. The Clown Team continue to be a highlights of today’s Field Day activities.

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Detroit Fire Department History – July 23rd-28th – 1967 Riots

Today in DFD history – July 23rd – 28th, 1967

During Detroit’s worst civil disturbance the Detroit Fire Department was taxed beyond its limits.


The department fought 1,682 fires.  Including 276 runs responded to by mutual aid companies from 45 fire companies from surrounding communities and across the river (Windsor). 


More than 5,000 citizens’ homes were burned.  Total fire loss was estimated at over $12.7 million.


Detroit Firefighters Carl Smith and John Ashby died as a result of the rioting.

Were you, your husband, or father a firefighter on the department during the ’67 Riots?  Please share your memories.



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Detroit Fire Department’s First Paid Employee

Today in Detroit Fire Department History –  May 13th, 1828

Lewis Davenport is believed to be the Detroit Fire Department’s first paid employee.  He was paid $12 for ringing “the bell” from February 13, 1828 to May 13, 1828.  The bell was an 8 foot tall steel triangle that was placed in a central location in Detroit to alert firefighters in the event of a fire.

The triangle is now part of The Henry Ford Museum’s collection (formerly known as Greenfield Village). 

On the same date, Thomas Carmichael and David Kendall were appointed as members of Engine Company No.1. 

Without doubt David Kendall’s service with the fire department had a impact on his son, John.  John Kendall joined the department at 14 years old as a volunteer.  He stayed with the department 53 years and eventually became chief in 1898.  Detroit’s third fire boat was named the “John Kendall” in his honor.

Detroit Fire Department fire boat John Kendall


Some of the information for this post came from the book Detroit Fire Department 1701-2007.  You can learn more about the book and other references I use on the Resource Page.

Detroit Fire Department History – May 1st

Today in Detroit Fire Department History –

May 1st  1932

The Fire Commission voted to lay off 120 firefighters and 23 bureau (now called divisions) members due to the economic toll of the great depression.  During that time, all city employees, including firefighters, were paid in script.  The layoffs lasted 6 months.  Only 85 of the 143 laid off chose to return to the fire department.

May 1st  1951

The Detroit Fire Department was pronounced the most efficient in the nation in personnel, equipment and effectiveness when they received the Grand Award in the National Inter-City Fire Prevention Contest.

May 1st 1956

Use of the High Pressure Water System was discontinued.  With a new freeway construction and the cost of moving the underground mains proved too costly.  Another factor in the decision to discontinue uses, was that the State Health Department objected to the use of raw river water as a possible contaminant. 

high pressure unit 1950s


May 1830

Detroit’s first ladder company was formed.  Known as “Rescue Hook and Ladder and Axe”, it had no truck until Jan. 10, 1831 when one was finally purchased for $70.  The company ran out oa a house located at Bates and Larned along with “Protection No.1” and “Hulbert Hose No.1”.

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Detroit Fire Department History – Last Running of the Fire Horses

Today in DFD history – April 10, 1922

The last run of the Detroit Fire Horses took place down Woodward Avenue. 

More than 50,000 people gathered to witness the historic last run or Peter, Jim, Tom, Babe and Rusty, the horses of Engine 37’s steamer and hose wagons.  They  dashed down Woodward on a symbolic final emergency as a fake alarm sounded at the National Bank Building.

last running

Nostalgic spectators lined Woodward from Grand Circus Park to Cadillac Square, cheering while the fire department’s band played Auld Lang Syne.  According to The Detroit News, many in the crowd cried as the horses passed.

1922 preparing for the last run

Preparing for the last running of the Detroit Fire Horses.

The department established a Horse Bureau in 1886.  It was written: “To be an ideal Fire Department horse the animal must possess exceptional intellegence, an even yet strong temperament, tractability, perfection of body, limb and wind, and the required weight.”  During that time, the description of what was needed to be a fireman was much the same, but with one omission

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Detroit Fire Department History – Detroit Firemen’s Fund Association

Today in Detroit Fire Department history – March 16, 1866

Detroit Firemen’s Fund was organized to assist the widows and orphans of firefighters and to assist firefighters that have become disabled.  It incorporated as a charitable organization on April 13th 1867.  The Firemen’s Fund is still actively supporting Detroit Firefighters and their families.


 The Fund maintains burial plots at Elmwood and Mt. Elliott cemeteries to honor our fallen comrades.   It has also established and maintains the Fallen Firefighters Memorial Rig, which is used to carry firefighters to their final resting places as well as for parades and fire musters.

 memorial rig 4

Each year the Detroit Firemen’s Fund holds events such as Firemen’s Field Day, Zoo Day at the Detroit Zoo and several fundraising raffles.

Detroit Fire Official Job Shirt

The Fund also serves as the Official Department store, selling and assortment of shirts including official duty shirts, patches, hats and more.  Proceeds from the sale of items help the Firemen’s Fund continue to help Detroit Firefighters, their families and our community.  Check out their website