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Photo of Detroit Firefighters Posing in Front of Burning House Will Be Investigated, Commissioner Says

By Donovan Wilkins

Contributing Writer | Telegraph Local 


A photo of Detroit firefighters posing in front of a house in flames has been making its rounds on social media. The photo in question was taken Tuesday night, New Year’s Eve, and posted on to facebook group called Detroit Fire Incidents Page. Under the photo, the caption read: “Crews take a moment to get a selfie on New Years!”

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Detroit Fire Commissioner Eric Jones said the photo is currently being investigated and action will be taken. Eric Jones has been outspoken about the photo. “There are a lot of ways to celebrate a retirement,” Jones said in a statement. “Taking a photo in front of a building fire is not one of them.” According to Dave Fornell, Deputy Fire Commissioner, the photo was taken in front of a vacant house in the city’s west side section. The building was too dangerous to enter while the firefighters we’re celebrating the retirement of their battalion fire chief. “It was despicable,” Fornell said. The photo has been shared over 1 million times over various social media platforms.

While many were praising the firefighters, others saw the photo unprofessional and in poor taste. “I hope that was a staged fire,” one commenter said. “I’d hate to think my firemen (were) posing for pictures while a real house was burning.” Another commented, “Way to go. Way to look professional and this puts a really bad rep on your company too.” One of the firefighters in the photo asked the facebook group admin to take the post down after being threatened with termination.

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The owners of the two-story Detroit house that burned down on New Years are disappointed in the firemen. “Everybody is furious,” Deonte Higginbotham, 21, told reporters of the brick home that’s been in his family for 50 years. “They just let it burn to the ground … Eighteen men and none of them did anything,” he added of the firefighters in the tasteless selfie. Dave Fornell assured everyone the house was vacant and abandoned. “It was a fire in a vacant building … The fire was pretty involved, we were not going to go into the building. What we would do is keep the fire from spreading” to other structures, he said.

Higginbotham said he wasn’t home at the time due to working being done on the house. Higginbotham has mentioned he still lived in the house with his mother, Dorothy, who is 70. Dorothy suffers from Alzheimer’s, with Higginbotham being her only caretaker. “She’s really sick right now,” he said of his mother. “We were trying to get the house remodeled” to accommodate her illness, he said. “She’s staying with family” elsewhere in Detroit, he added. The Detroit Fire Department has stated the investigation is still ongoing and will take disciplinary action if needed.

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