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Capt. Dale Bradley said the 911 call for the fire came in at 6:59 a.m. and Squad 4 arrived five minutes later. However, it wasn’t until a second 911 call came in at 7:12 a.m. that the Fire Department was notified the upstairs was occupied. EMS was dispatched at 7:13 a.m., but Squad 4 made the decision to transport the boys themselves at 7:15 a.m.
“When it came in, it came in as a house fire,” Bradley said. “And EMS isn’t normally dispatched to a dwelling fire unless the caller indicates people are trapped inside.”
Fire officials say Medic 5, stationed road 6.2 miles away near the intersection of Joy and Southfield, was called to the fire. Two other ambulances were stationed closer to the scene, but one was responding to a caller with back pain and the other was broken down at the time.
Rescue crews were unable to save 6-year-old Michael Chavez after pulling him from the burning home.
His 4-year-old brother, Julio Chavez, is said to be in “extremely critical” condition.
Firefighters have expressed their sadness and outrage on Facebook – upset that no medic came to the house to help the boys. A source with Detroit EMS is also furious over the decisions made Tuesday morning. The source tells Local 4 that medics from a station at Joy and Southfield were called to the fire, when two other ambulances are stationed closer to the house. One of those ambulances was out on a what’s being called a “minor” run when the fire broke out, the next closest ambulance, Local 4 was told is broken down.
Both firefighters and medics are blaming Detroit’s city council and Mayor Dave Bing for allowing the city’s ambulance fleet to fall into such bad shape that ambulances’ are taken out of service and not repaired.
The boys were home alone asleep in an upstairs bedroom.
In a rare news conference, Executive Fire Commissioner Don Austin defended his team.
“First of all, when you have a cardiac arrest, you respond to the nearest, appropriate medical facility,” he said. “I don’t know the victim’s status. Most people die from a fire not from burns, but from smoke inhalation.”
“Squad Four immediately started CPR, loaded them into their squad vehicle,” Austin added.
“We’re the only city in the state that does not respond an EMS rig to every single fire,” said retired EMS worker Mike O’Neill.
With more than 130,000 calls a year and ten to twelve working units at any given time, it’s no secret the resources are limited. Commissioner Austin says Detroiters are getting the best coverage available, but sometimes the best just isn’t good enough.
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