BURN: Call for Action in Detroit—Movie

Firefighting in general is not for the weak…physically and mentally.  But in Detroit it takes something more. Maybe it’s a large heart or a Don Quixote spirit. Whatever it is, the riveting documentary, “BURN: One Year on the Front Lines to Save Detroit,” makes very clear that Detroit firefighters have it in spades…and unfortunately not much else.

Filmmakers Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez focus on one year in the life of the Detroit Fire Department, one of the busiest in the country, honing in on Engine 50 for much of the film, embedding with them to tell their story.

“BURN” points out that since the 1950 Detroit’s population has dropped by about half. With that decreased population has come a lot of vacant buildings…ripe for arson and fire by other means. Detroit averages 30 fire structures a week, more than any city in the U.S.

Newly appointed Detroit Fire Commissioner Don Austin is shown to be at his wit’s end in trying to come to grips with the problems he has encountered.  A Detroit native most recently working in Los Angeles, he definitely wants to do right by the firefighters and citizens, but is really limited in how effective he can be.

But the true heroes of the documentary are the firefighters from Engine 50. Self-described “cowboys in a big rodeo,” they never know what to expect from day-to-day. Many of them are earning a paltry $30,000/year for performing life-threatening work, but it’s because they genuinely love what they do.  We also follow the story of one young fireman who suffers the consequences when in an instant things  go horribly wrong.  His story is heart-breaking.

“BURN” pulls no punches.  Are some firefighters adrenalin junkies? Perhaps. But what would we and Detroit in particular do without them? Let’s hope none of us ever have to find out.

“BURN” is in limited release around the country. For more information, go to http://detroitfirefilm.org.


3 ½ nuggets out of 4



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