"A heroic tale if ever there was one." - THE BOSTON PHOENIX

“Full of some of the most haunting fire footage around…introducing us to some of the toughest guys in the world.” - NEW YORK MAGAZINE

Visit the official website to learn about the film and connect with the firefighters.

BURN: Detroit Fire travels to the frontlines with one of the busiest fire departments in North America as they battle to save Detroit, one fire at a time. The action-packed documentary captures a year in the lives of Detroit firefighters who are charged with the thankless task of saving a city that many have written off as dead. Facing staggering arson rates and epic budget cuts, we witness the firefighters' personal and public struggles as they try to rescue their city. Using helmet cams that provide a close-up view rarely seen before, BURN: Detroit Fire takes you into the fires and ultimately into the hearts of the people who fight them, exploring human struggles, hope and personal courage in the face of overwhelming odds.

Producer/directors Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez embedded with the crew of Engine Company 50. Located on Detroit’s blighted east side, E50 stands at ground zero of the city’s problems. Since 1950, racial tensions and vanishing industry have cut Detroit’s population in half from 1.8 million, leaving behind 80,000 abandoned structures, or "kindling", as the firefighters call it. The result is a dying city with one of the highest arson rates in the world. Every time the alarm goes off, the crew of E50 steps into their worn boots, jumps onto decrepit trucks and drives out into the crumbling streets of Detroit to battle these complex problems.

Detroit Fire Department's FEO DAve Parnell stands outside a burning building.Detroit Fire Department's FEO Dave Parnell stands outside a burning building.

Thirty-three-year Detroit Fire Department veteran Dave Parnell is the sage voice of both Engine 50 and his neighbourhood. As Field Engine Operator, he drives the rig, manages the hose, and philosophizes about life and love — what his colleagues lovingly call “comforting bullshit.” Committed to his family and work, Parnell lives in E50‘s district, and he's watched his neighborhood become one of the hardest hit by the city's economic woes.

Brendan “Doogie” Milewski took great pride in being an 11-year Detroit firefighter who spent his trainee year at E50. Thirty years old and newly married, he worked hard and played hard. In 2010, a group of Detroit firefighters was knocking down a blaze in a commercial arson fire when a wall came crashing down. Doogie was paralyzed and, though lucky to be alive, faces an inconceivable challenge. 

Detroit Fire Commissioner Don AustinDetroit Fire Commissioner Don Austin

Donald Austin is the Detroit Fire Department’s new “outsider” commissioner, so his discovery of the organization’s challenges and dysfunctions truly begins after he arrives in Detroit. It's his job to turn the fire department around, motivate his team and help reduce the fire threat Detroit faces from its abandoned buildings while the city is simultaneously declaring bankruptcy.

Citing a debt of at least $18 billion, rising pension and healthcare costs and revenue too small to pay the city's bills, the city of Detroit is presently undergoing an historic bankruptcy trial — the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy. In the face of this crisis, BURN: Detroit Fire presents a story of incredible resilience about an exceptional breed of people who fight for their city under life-threatening conditions, despite low pay and dysfunctional gear. And they do it with camaraderie and a remarkable sense of humor. 

Produced and directed by Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez. Executive Producers are Denis Leary and Jim Serpico.

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​Visit the official website for the film.

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Also on CBC