An eerie aurora lights the stricken
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
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
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
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
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
Spreading flames start to engulf the apartment
No water to be found - slack hoses wait for
A functioning hydrant is finally found on an
adjoining block - but it is too late
An hour too late - firemen hose into a
A second hose is finally brought to bear on
the doomed apartment