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Detroit fire officials criticized in fatal fire

A fatal accident involving a house fire that killed a 3-year-old Detroit toddler has created a controversy for officials. The blaze was caused by the girl's 4-year-old sister who was playing with matches. While firefighters were initially able to rescue the toddler, she later died due to smoke inhalation.

The Detroit Fire Department has fielded severe criticism over the incident because the first fire unit sent to the scene was unable to pump the water that was needed to extinguish the blaze. The truck had been substituted for the usual fire truck that was out being repaired.

The Detroit Fire Commissioner said that the first truck on the scene was designed to put out smaller fires in parking structures and was not suitable for extinguishing a house fire. He also admitted that the pump assembly on the truck had been disconnected because certification is required for persons using the rig. There was not a firefighter certified to use that particular equipment available at the time.

The fire was reported at 10:35 a.m. and the first company was sent to the scene at 10:38 a.m. Fire personnel beat back the flames and found the 3-year-old under an air mattress on the second floor of the home.

The head of the firefighter's union wondered why a working pump on a fire truck would be disabled, as firefighters would have needed water to knock down the flames blocking entryways.

The family of the victim wonders if their loved one would still be alive if the fire truck had been working properly and had been used to allow firefighters to enter the building sooner. The Fire Commissioner said that his department did everything they could to affect a rescue and that no criticism was deserved.

Source: Detroit Free Press "Fire officials dispute criticism in blaze that killed Detroit toddler," Gina Damron and Tammy Stables Battaglia, Sept. 15, 2011

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