Inside the efforts to rescue a veteran firefighter who became trapped when Detroit house collapsed

No major injuries reported

We're learning more about a collapse that trapped a firefighter.

DETROIT – A Detroit firefighter was trapped for hours as other firefighters rushed to get him out after a home collapsed.

No major injuries were reported. Detroit firefighters believed they were dealing with a suspected serial arsonist.

The same crew had been called to three vacant houses on West Hollywood Avenue just that week. On July 28, there was another fire the crew had under control from the outside.

Then three veteran firefighters from the crew went inside to check for hot spots and to see if any people were inside.

Local 4 investigators were told the first floor was dangerously unstable. The three firefighters were checking out the second level when they heard a crack.

The floor collapsed right out from under them, all three falling down to the first floor. One member of the crew, a 23-year veteran firefighter with a wife and two kids later told his crew he thought his life was ending right then and there. He was the member that was trapped.

A beam came crashing down on his neck. He was face down in the debris. Then a wall came crashing down on his back, the force compressing his chest.

Read: 2 firefighters rescued after burning building collapses on them in Detroit, chief says

He said he could barely breathe, could not call for help, and could only raise his hand up through a foot and half of debris. If the beam shifted, the force could have broken his neck. If the wall shifted, he could have been crushed.

Firefighters ran inside and quickly located the trapped firefighter. He was able to tell them that he was not going to make it if they were not able to get the beam and wall off of him.

Then managed to get them off within minutes -- but the battle was far from over. The firefighter’s foot was trapped under another beam. He could not pull his foot out of his boot so the crew had to carefully cut through and remove debris to get to his foot.

They managed to free him and get him out of what was left of the collapsed house.

Read: Detroit man faces arson charges for house fire that collapsed, trapping and injuring firefighters


About the Authors:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.