Detroit on Fire
Review by Ross Anthony

I've enjoyed the work of Denis Leary, so when I was offered the chance to screen a documentary he'd produced, I assumed it would be of high grit and high quality. Burn delivers on both accounts. The firefighters talk candidly about the rewards and dangers of fighting fires. Perhaps more surprisingly, the fire commissioner talks just as candidly (expletives and all) regarding fighting budget demons. But, Burn has more to show than talking heads. The cameras follow the rescuers directly into the fire. "Not like on the news where you see guys holding hoses outside of burning buildings" one of the fighters says. The images are powerful, the emotional connections deep, the storylines compelling, and difficult dilemmas well-covered.

Since a root problem stems from Detroit's over abundance of vacant structures (80,000) paired with its greatly reduced budget for staff and vehicles, the commissioner suggests letting some vacant buildings just burn instead of risking firefighters and equipment to rescue them. Surprisingly, the firefighters find that strategy difficult to swallow. He also pushes for the demolition of these structures before the arsons get to work (another fine idea, save for high quantities in low budget times). My girlfriend and I noodled the problem after enjoying the doc. Here are a couple of nuggets resulting from our laypersons' brainstorming:

1) Invite residents and/or owners on each city block to "adopt" one of its vacant homes. Send in a city expert to help them organize and dismantle/demolish it on their own.
2) Someone must own these structures. Presumably many are foreclosures owned by the banks etc. Make a law (if there isn't one already) that requires high taxes on vacant properties. These taxes would serve two purposes: to repair fire vehicles and to incentivize owners to either destroy or refurbish these properties. Again, should the owners choose to demolish, the city would send a rep (and perhaps equipment) to assist.

Perhaps you have an idea? Send it in to me (for my curiosity) or the commissioner (for possible consideration).

Btw, interestingly enough this film was funded in part via

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  • Burn. Copyright © 2013.
  • Directed by Tom Putnam & Brenna Sanchez. Executive Producers Denis Leary & Jim Serpico ("Rescue Me," Apostle Films)..

Grade..........................A (3.5/4)

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Copyright © 1998-2022 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

Last Modified: Tuesday, 02-Jul-2013 09:52:44 PDT