Detroit firefighters battle 4-alarm fire during radio outage

Unreliable radio system makes dangerous job more dangerous for Detroit firefighters

By Will Jones - Reporter


The cloud of smoke could be seen from miles away on Detroit's west side as nearly 70 firefighters responded to a four-alarm fire Tuesday in a commercial yard at Lyndon and Meyers.

Derrick Woods rode his bike over for an up-close look.

"It is just amazing, man, how this stuff just be burning like this. It's just crazy," Woods said.

Fire Commissioner Don Austin was on scene to assess the situation. It's the type of fire that firefighters fear, especially on a day when radio communication was unreliable.

"It's a very challenging work environment," said Fire Chief Craig Dougherty.

About 2 a.m. Tuesday the radio communication system for Detroit police, EMS and firefighters went down. That left firefighters and other first responders to rely on their cellphones to contact dispatchers while they were out on the job. That made the job more dangerous.

"Our phones are working in the quarters so companies are able to get dispatch. Once they get on the scene they are able to use their cellphones to call back to central office if they need additional help or resources," said Dougherty.

With their normal fire channels down, firefighters relied on what they call an event channel to communicate with dispatchers on this large fire.

"It's not one of our normal channels that we use but we are using a channel that is available to us," said Dougherty.

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