UPDATE – Belgian firefighter says TV reporter wrong that they paid $2K each for Detroit FD ride-along/training. LeDuff rains on critically acclaimed ‘Burn’ local premiere.

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Close call involving vacationing Belgian firefighter

Earlier coverage of Commissioner Austin’s pay to ride-along proposal

Other Detroit coverage of “Burn” here, here & here

Official website for “Burn” where you can support documentary


Belgian Firefighter Marc Opstal has been in touch with STATter911.com both in the comments section and by phone. Opstal says WJBK-TV’s Charlie LeDuff reported wrong information about the visit by the Belgian firefighters to Detroit and wished that LeDuff had contacted them for comment first. Here’s what Opstal wrote:

As one of the 10 firefighters from Belgium, I need to react on the report and comments. First of all we are guests of the Detroit Fire Department and did not pay a dime for this. The 2000 dollars refered to is the money we spent on airfaire, rental cars and hotels for the tourist trip we will be making next week, which will bring us to Toronto, DC, Philadelphia and New York. Secondly, this visit was planned more than a year ago, long before the “tourist thrill”. Finally, we have done similar trips to other US cities since 1996. Another group will be visiting Austin, TX next week. Oh, and by the way, we paid for our tickets to the “burn” premiere, and thus show our support.


It’s buried near the end of WJBK-TV reporter Charlie LeDuff’s rant about the state of the Detroit fire department under the administration of Commissioner Donald Austin and Mayor Dave Bing. LeDuff, who broke the story of Austin’s proposal to charge those who want to ride-along and train with the Detroit Fire Department, says “10 guys from Belgium took him up on the offer, paying $2,000 each.” LeDuff adds, “For that they get to pull hose, sleep in a real-life firehouse, go to a Tigers game and stand on the red carpet of the Burn premiere.”

As the reporter mentions in the video above, for that money one of the Belgian firefighters experienced a close call first hand. As we showed you yesterday, the firefighter was on the roof of a burning vacant warehouse when the roof gave way underneath him (click here for the video and audio of that incident).

It’s interesting that in the WXYZ-TV story about the vacationing firemen where Commissioner Austin was interviewed there is mention the firefighters paid their own way and were on their own time, but no indication they paid the City of Detroit for this opportunity.

LeDuff’s story came as the critically acclaimed documentary “Burn” had its Detroit premiere. While the coverage of the movie elsewhere around town and the country has been very good, LeDuff does not appear to be much of a fan:

The Detroit premiere of the documentary “Burn” plays Friday night. With respect to the hard-working firefighters who lay it on the line every night, the movie doesn’t show anything that we don’t already know. The Detroit Fire Department is a disaster, made worse by the bonehead budget cuts by Out-To-Lunch Dave Bing.

Reporter Charlie LeDuff claims Belgian firefighters paid $2000 for the “tourist thrill ride”. This one got something the others didn’t, a close call as the roof of a warehouse gave way underneath him. Click here for more.

Why allow a movie camera on the rigs to make yet another negative story about Detroit? We’re told it is to show the world the struggles of our emergency responders. Well, the cameras have left and the city still struggles. You don’t get rid of a negative image by making movies. You get rid of a negative image by fixing the problems. I thought we learned our lesson with Aiyana Stanley Jones, the seven-year-old who was shot to death by a cop with a cable television camera in tow.
What has the fire commissioner done? He has issued an official department-wide bulletin telling the rank and file that the movie producers request they come to the premiere in their dress blues. The good tickets go for 50 bucks. Can somebody tell Dennis Leary they just got their pay cut by 10 percent?

WDIV-TV reports this Friday night fire is an example of the “let it burn” policy. Click here for video.

Another station, WDIV-TV. filed a report on the same night as “Burn” clearly illustrating “let it burn”, Commissioner Austin’s plan that combines firefighter safety with urban renewal. At least one resident interviewed supports the idea.

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Detroit firefighters hosing down the rig but not the fire building Friday night.