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Detroit firefighters tell their story in ‘Burn’

Detroit Firefighter

Detroit Fire Engine Operator Dave Parnell

DETROIT — Firefighters have an up-close view of the best and worst in any city. This is especially true for Detroit. Detroit is a picture of the future of American industrial cities in a post-industrial age: One foot in a prosperous past, with an uncertain next act, struggling to survive in a changing economy.

“Burn: One Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit,” a new documentary in theaters Dec. 7, takes you inside a year in the life of Detroit firefighters.

Since 1950, racial tensions and vanishing industry have cut Detroit’s population in half from 1.8 million, making it a housing market horror story and leaving behind 80,000 abandoned homes.

And in Detroit, social problems manifest themselves in one way — fire.

The result is a dying city with one of the highest arson rates in the world.

Los Angeles, a city of 4 million people, sees 11 structure fires per day. Compare that to Detroit, which has 713,000 residents and 30 structure fires a day.

“Burn,” a film by Brenna Sanchez and Tom Putnam, follows the crew of Engine Company 50 — one of the busiest firehouses in America. Located on Detroit’s blighted east side, E50 stands at ground zero of the city’s problems. “Burn” tells the story of these exceptional individuals who, despite the challenges and dysfunction, believe in their city and are attempting to make a difference every day. They’re certainly not here for the money — their starting salary is $30,000 and they haven’t seen a raise in 10 years.

The film may be told through the eyes of Detroit firefighters, who are charged with the thankless task of saving a city that many have written off as dead, but “Burn” isn’t just about a single city. It’s about all national first responders, whose budgets are on the chopping block. A significant portion of any proceeds from the film will go to the Leary Firefighters Foundation to purchase much-needed gear for the Detroit firefighters.

“Burn” opens exclusively at AMC Forum 30 and AMC Livonia 20 on Dec. 7. The film is not yet rated.

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