1 child dead, another injured after fire in southwest Detroit

1 child dead, another injured after fire in southwest Detroit

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Firefighters outside a home on Detroit's southwest side Tuesday morning. Firefighters outside a home on Detroit's southwest side Tuesday morning.
A firefighter looks on following a house fire on Detroit's southwest side. A firefighter looks on following a house fire on Detroit's southwest side.
Firefighters rescued two children from the second story of this home on Tarnow St. Firefighters rescued two children from the second story of this home on Tarnow St.

By Maurielle Lue
Fox 2 News


DETROIT (WJBK) -- Six-year-old Julio Chavez died in a house fire on Detroit's southwest side.  His four-year-old brother, Mike, is in critical condition.

The boys were home alone asleep in an upstairs bedroom.  The first call came in at 6:59 a.m.  Five minutes later, two engines, a squad car and a chief officer arrived on the scene.  They found the two boys and made an emergency run to Henry Ford Hospital, not to the burn unit at Children's Hospital where Julio was later transferred and died.

In a rare news conference, Executive Fire Commissioner Don Austin defended his team.

"First of all, when you have a cardiac arrest, you respond to the nearest, appropriate medical facility," he said.  "I don't know the victim's status.  Most people die from a fire not from burns, but from smoke inhalation."

"Squad Four immediately started CPR, loaded them into their squad vehicle," Austin added.

"We're the only city in the state that does not respond an EMS rig to every single fire," said retired EMS worker Mike O'Neill.

Firefighters are not paramedics.  They are required to have medical first responder training, but not all firefighters know CPR.  Thankfully the guys who rescued the Chavez boys did, but they did not have oxygen tanks.  A nearby EMS rig with more equipment and a medically trained crew requested to go to the fire, but dispatch said no, instead sending that unit to a back pain call.  By the time they changed their minds it was too late.  The kids were already en route to the hospital.

"Our guys are better trained.  Our guys are ready to do it.  We have the equipment.  We have the manpower.  We know what we're doing," O'Neill said.

"Our problem begins, obviously, at a shortage of resources, and the mayor's office, myself, we're working very diligently to try and come up with a funding source to augment our fleet," Austin said.

With more than 130,000 calls a year and ten to twelve working units at any given time, it's no secret the resources are limited.  Commissioner Austin says Detroiters are getting the best coverage available, but sometimes the best just isn't good enough.

It's important not to blame the firefighters.  The crew that tried to save the six-year-old are heroes for their effort and there was no EMS on the scene.

Now there are some jurisdiction issues with the unions, and a shortage of resources in Detroit only makes it harder and basically forces firefighters to need more medical training than they are required to have.

QUESTION AND ANSWER

MONICA GAYLE: Why didn't the EMS go on the inital call for that fire?

MAURIELLE LUE: It's not protocol to send an EMS unit to every house fire in Detroit, and the first call that came in didn't indicate that there were people inside the home.  Now the commissioner says that one minute later another call came in saying that there were children inside and EMS was immediately dispatched, but the closest unit was 14.8 miles away.

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