With the operating conditions in Detroit, so many wondered what would eventually happen related to DFD, as far as their Firefighters being injured, or worse, killed in the line of duty. And when I heard about the comments so emotionally SCREAMED by a Detroit Fire Sgt today. "What a complete waste," ...he died.. "For what? For what? Some dump of a house?" The words hit they should.

I mean, really, in so many respects, few really care about trying to really save Detroit. Read the news. Look at the politics. Look at that City. The only ones who really seem to consistently and genuinely give a damn are the Detroit Firefighters. Why would I say that? Show me where anyone else really cares-and can prove it. It ain't there. It's like the DFD Firefighters are the "last ones standing" in that City.

Sometimes when I see them operating I think that their actions are far more than Firefighters hitting a fire. I mean, for those who have lived there most or all of their lives, it's like they are trying to do whatever they can to stop "any more" of their city from being destroyed. Just trying to it continues to go away. And then today happened.

There is now one less Detroit Firefighter standing. And he is the 100th LODD in the United States of America in 2008.

This mornings horrible loss was put into a very poignant and sobering perspective by a DFD Firefighter in the below article. "What a complete waste," screamed Sgt. Jimmy Montgomery, who served with Harris at the Squad 3/Engine 23 Firehouse located near the crumbing carcass of the old Packard automobile plant. "For what? For what? Some dump of a house?"

As you now know that FF Walter Harris was horribly lost this morning while operating in that vacant "dump of a house". By all accounts, FF Walter Harris Sr was the kind of FF whose warm, fun and stabilizing personality would be a welcome addition to any firehouse...anywhere. While few people outside of Detroit really understand or have seen (or even care) what terrible conditions exist in Detroit, the only thing really left, in a City whose government has failed miserably, is the Detroit Firefighters.

When the role call of the Detroit Fire Department is called tonight, one less GOOD MAN will so very sadly fail to answer the call.

For the rest of us and eventually the now grieving Firefighters of the DFD, maybe we can think about FF Walter Harris....for example, when we size up, we can THINK about FF Harris (we posted several pictures of his big smiling face on our home page)...and operate at our next vacant structural fire in a manner as if FF Harris might have been given a second chance. Of course he won't get one but fortunately we can, we do and can genuinely honor his life, his heroic life and his memory, in how we operate at future fires. Think of Firefighter Walter Harris Sr.

Don't know Walter Harris? I didn't but I wish I did. But from today's and past accounts, just think of the nicest, most fun, smiling-ist and most stabilizing Firefighter in your firehouse. You know the type. The one you can always count on. One of the real good ones. You know'm.

Rest in Peace Firefighter Walter Harris Sr...and our condolences to all affected, but especially the DFD and the family of FF Harris.

Here is the article:

Also See: More Coverage on

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Comment by Dan Jardine on November 20, 2008 at 8:37pm
May angels carry him to heaven. We shall see him again when it is our turn. For now, know that he is watching over his brothers. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family,friends and fellow firefighters.
Comment by Mike Compton on November 20, 2008 at 4:35pm
Fireman’s Prayer

When I am called to duty God wherever flames may rage,
Give me strength to save a life what ever be its age.
Help me to be alert to the weakest of shout
To quickly and efficiently put the fire out.
Help me to embrace a little child before it to late
or to an save older person from the horrors of that fate.
I want fill my calling God to be give the best in me,
to protect my every neighbor and protect his property,
and if by your Will I am to surrender my life.
Please bless with your protecting hands my children and my wife

It is in Walters Honor that I write these word today. I never knew Walter. But Like all firefighter we have this bond called the Brotherhood. Webster’s definition is: an association of men united in some way either through work or interest. I Like mine a little better : It is an undefined understanding that all that have gone before us , and all that will come after, will have a common bond . They will in some way, have walked in each other shoes, this may be separated by miles, millenniums, triumphs or heartache . The bond may be spoken but the true bond is that, we have lived it together . The Fireman’s Prayer is one of the common bonds we as firefighter have we have live together

May God protect you and your children Mrs. Harris.


Michial Compton
Fire Chief
City Of Elkhart IN.
Comment by Ron Graner on November 18, 2008 at 3:00pm
Been there, done that, many times over. The joy of working in uban renewal neighborhoods.
The answer needs to always be firefighter safety first except in rescue of known lives. It should not be about interior firefighting in involved abandoned structures. I stand on my original statements on that point.
The question you raise about who is inside is the valid point for tactical rescue operations.
There are simple but not absolute ways to do the size up to determine if the tactic is worth the risk of a firefighter’s life: This is where training and experience really counts;
IE; How do you determine if there is the possibility of folks being inside a well involved structure?
If the structure is totally boarded up and secured with no sign of entry or incursion, you need to assume nobody is inside for firefighter safety.
If structure is not secured totally, as was the case in the neighborhoods I worked in years ago, you have to assume it is occupied and do an interior search and rescue.
The tactic must be to conduct a fast search and rescue if needed and then getting the hell out.
Hose lines need to be placed in the interior to protect search crews and backed out with the search crews.
Certainly if during the S&R, it is determined that the fire can be knocked down readily, crews should do so but they do not risk lives in the process. This is where the IC really needs to keep a steady watch on progress, rescue and fire growth, and back the crews out if conditions deteriorate.
Comment by Paul on November 18, 2008 at 2:48pm
WestPhilly, BELIEVE me!!!! I'm not criticising the DFD not by all means. I was a resident of detroit for 35 yrs and my uncle retired from DFD, but at what point do you say enough is enough? The house is abandoned, how long has the stucture been involved , and so and so on! We lost a good Brother!! Its called Life Safety
Comment by Ron Graner on November 18, 2008 at 1:43pm
Oh well, that proves once again that spell check does not replace proof reading. Its a good thing that Fire Engineering has good proof readers.
How about this Capt:
Every department certainly needs to have a policy that will not permit interior firefighting in buildings that are boarded up because they are already scheduled to come down or in buildings that are already falling down.
Comment by Ron Graner on November 18, 2008 at 1:29pm
Vagrants, as we used to call them in the good old days, have always frequented abandoned buildings.
That is specifically why departments that respond to those structures need to have clear policies on how, and if, they will check for inhabitants and when responders will write off the structure and not risk the lives of their firefighters. Every department certainly needs to be a policy that will not permit interior firefighting in buildings that are boarded up because they are already coming or falling down.
Comment by Paul on November 18, 2008 at 9:37am
Its sad that we lost a brother to a preventable/senseless incident. It was an ABANDON house!!!!! The DFD should have went defensive and saved the citys coffers and the taxpayers monies for a dying city. Rest in Peace BROTHER!
Comment by Nick Morgan on November 17, 2008 at 11:14pm
Our prayers are with the family of FF Harris, his crew on Squad 3/Engine 23; and the rest of the Detroit Firefighters trying to cope with this loss and go on protecting their city when it seems that nobody else cares. May God give you rest and peace my brother Walter! To all my brothers and sisters in the DFD and everywhere else; may God bless and protect you all and Stay Safe!!!
Comment by Bill Mulligan on November 17, 2008 at 7:47pm
sorry for your loss our hearts go out to DFD and to Walters family..................... RIP BROTHER
Comment by Beverly on November 17, 2008 at 7:45pm
Thoughts and prayers to his family and "fire family". A sad loss of life but there will be one more guardian angel watching over his families.

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