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Apartment goes up in flames on Buena Vista
Fire department unable to find working hydrant

An eerie aurora lights the stricken building

Aug 27, 2006 - A demonic apparition in the sky heralds the demise of yet another Highland Park dwelling. This time an occupied apartment on on Buena Vista, between Brush and Oakland Avenue.
The fire department arrived in a timely manner on the scene at about 9:00pm at which time the fire was localized at the back top floor of the building.
The firemen dutifully set about looking for a hydrant to attach their hoses.
In almost any other city or suburb, this scenario would typically amount to significant damage of the home owner's property, but not the wholesale loss of the entire structure.
But this is Highland Park, and the State of Michigan does not see fit to protect citizen life or property hereabouts.
By 9:30pm the firemen have tried all the hydrants on the block and are desperately searching further afield for a functioning hydrant. One fireman is dragging hoses across John R West to see if there is water on that Buena Vista block. There isn't.
It is 9:50pm, and the house has now caught fire in earnest. Citizens stand across the street, outraged at the fundamental lack of basic civilized services.
"I pay $2000 in taxes" I hear one citizen shouting over the crackle and roar, "I can't believe that none of these hydrants are working!"
The red glow of the fire illuminates his face. It reads anger, disgust. There is a zapping sound, a bluish-violet flash and the lights in the stricken building go out.
The flames are now dangerously close to the bordering house, and its wood is starting to steam.
At 10:15pm the firefighters have lucked out. They have found a functioning hydrant on the neighboring street and start dragging hoses into place.
By 10:20pm they have water and immediately hose down the neighboring building which threatens to burst into flame. It is a calm night, and there is no wind. This has been a blessing, because there can be little doubt that the surrounding buildings would have caught fire as well, had the flames been fanned.
10:25pm Firemen turn their attention to the stricken building, but it is way to late. What should have been a localized small fire has blossomed into a ruinous hell. The building is now another ruin in a city of ruins.
- Click for more pictures -

Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.

The supreme irony is that the City of Highland Park is drowning in water. The City owns its very own water intake water purification plant, capable of supplying a population of 60,000 with water and have enough left over to satisfy the needs of two major industries. Such were its specifications when it was constructed by Henry Ford in 1915.

Since the population decline of Highland Park, the outlay for necessary maintenance of HP water has decreased in proportion. The pump house sitting midway between the intake at Grosse Pointe Farms and Highland Park has been shut down, and over 50% of the water is lost in leakage. The blueprints for the system are in tatters with many of the documents lost, resulting in costly guessing and digging to find mains.
The sad fact of the matter is that the HP water system us underutilized, thus costing the HP taxpayer, rather than bringing in revenue.
What is so extraordinary about all this is that a water intake and purification plant is an asset worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Ask the various wealthy suburbs surrounding Detroit that have been looking to build their own water system. These plans are time and again set aside, because the estimates for this utility are so outlandishly expensive that they found it more expedient - and more cost effective -  to try and steal Detroit's water supply.

Whether or not it is their fault, the responsibility lies squarely at the feet of the State of Michigan.
Unfortunately, the legislatures who stalk these hallowed halls have no clear idea how to approach urban blight. Their strategies can best be described as punitive. They seem to have no notion of the modern the urban surgery that has been practiced for decades in other states and countries.
Observing the day to day destruction through neglect of Highland Park brings to mind some kind of mad Dickensian urban nightmare. Am I dreaming? Where are you, Michigan?

The blazing fire reflects off a  pockmarked, unrepaired street...

Spreading flames start to engulf the apartment

No water to be found - slack hoses wait for water

A functioning hydrant is finally found on an adjoining block - but it is too late

An hour too late - firemen hose into a needless firestorm


A second hose is finally brought to bear on the doomed apartment

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