The Buhl Building Fire
On June 11, 1982 an angry man entered the Buhl Building in Detroit Michigan. His attorney was handling an insurance matter for him and the man wanted his check. It was for $2500 and the man intended to get that money or seek vengeance. He rode the elevator to the eighth floor. When he entered the lawyer’s office he was carrying a sawed off shotgun and a gasoline fire bomb. Whatever occurred from that point on is uncertain. The man shot a woman and threw the fire bomb against the office wall. The ensuing explosion and fire scattered the occupants of the eighth floor. Many ran to windows cut off by the raging fire. Some were caught in the smoke filled hallways. The fire alarms went off and the Fire Department sent Firefighters to the scene. Panic gripped the eighth floor of the Buhl Building.
Engine 1s crew went to the fire floor and began rescuing people under heavy smoke conditions. The screaming of the trapped civilians added stress to the situation. The Firefighters found and removed five people. The men got a hose line working and began to put out the fire. People fleeing the mad man, with the gun, had run into several different rooms. Police officers working with the Firefighters were able to locate the shooter and take him into custody.
When ladder 1 pulled up they could see people hanging out of windows on the upper floors of the Buhl building. Some victims were on the street side and others were trapped in rooms overlooking a roof four floors up at the side of the building. Ladder 1 was hampered by double parked cars. When they extended the 100 foot aerial ladder they were one floor short of the trapped victims. The Captain of Ladder 1 ordered a ladder splice operation. This is a rare tactic but it was necessary under the fire conditions at the scene. Several Firefighters took up a sixteen foot roof ladder and placed it on the upper rungs of the aerial ladder. The roof ladder was secured with leather belts. The men proceeded to help victims out of the window and down a precarious set up eight floors above the street.
Ladder 3 arrived on the scene and raised their aerial to the roof at the side of the building. Arriving Firefighters urged the trapped victims to hold on. Two people had already jumped four floors and hit the roof next to the Buhl Building. A heavy 50 foot extension Ladder was brought up and Firefighters were able to rescue the people who had made it to the windows.
There were many acts of heroism that day. Inside the fire one Firefighter shared his air mask with a panicking police officer. That Firefighter ended up in the hospital with smoke inhalation. The fire sent five Detroit Firefighters to the hospital. The total for the Buhl Building fire was one dead and 38 injured. Only the unselfish brave actions by Detroit Firefighters saved the day and prevented a greater loss of life. It was one of the most complicated and heroic fire evacuations in the history of the Department.
The photos below are from the Detroit Fire Fighters Magazine which is published by Local 344 the Detroit Fire Fighters association. The pictures were taken by Bill Eisner, Bill Grimshaw, and Detroit Police Photographer Babcock.
Notice the splice ladder atop the aerial.
Taking up the 55' extension ladder.
What trapped victims had to go down.
Arson investigates Buhl Building fire.
Firefighter to the hospital from Buhl Bldg fire.
A Firefighter sits in the ambulance after the Buhl Bldg fire.
"Fire Talk" Archives
- Benny the Hook
- Got To Love Texas
- The Fog of Retirement
- Two Tough Kids
- On Leaving the Department
- Cop Talk 3, Ceremony
- Putting it on the Line
- A Bond of Love
- God Will Protect Us
- Stealing Fires
- Poo Poo Pants
- Decoy Carver
- Firefighter's Road Trip
- Day Twenty-seven. Road Trip
- Down Mexico Way
- Zoo in the 7th
- A Gentle Landing
- Always a Firefighter
- Christmas at the Firehouse
- Harem Sacrum
- The Crow Who Spoke Polish
- Once a Firefighter always a Firefighter
- A Brotherhood
- Retiring a Hall of Fame Firefighter
- Anatomy of Forcible Entry
- Old Horses
- The Milk Wagon
- The Howling
- Tales of the Seventh Battalion 26, Destructo
- Memories of the 7th Battalion
- Running Mates
- Engine 32
- Last Alarm
- Tiger Stadium Fire
- To Moosenee and Back
- Memorial Day 2009
- Anatomy of a Fire at a Dangerous Building
- Tales of the Seventh Battalion 25, A Typical 7th Battalion Fire
- Boris the Talking Dog
- Wear and Tear
- Tales of the Seventh Battalion 24, Legends
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 23, Ankie
- Anatomy of a Dwelling Fire
- A Firefighter's Spring
- My Running Mate
- The Singing Fireman
- The Right Stuff
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 22, A Desperate Rescue
- 300 Spartans
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 21, Men Who Fight Bears
- At the End of His Rope
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 20, Wolf Warriors
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 19, Motorcycle Maniac
- Career Ending Injuries
- Detroit Loses One of Its Finest
- On Duty Injuries
- Unpractical Jokes
- Dedication in the Fire Service
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 18, Spare Parts
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 17, Passage to Hell
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 16, Gallant Warrior
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 15, Big Ones
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 14, Chicago Lil
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 13, Bridge Fires
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 12, Hot Stuff
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 11, Taco Wars
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 10, Day in Hell
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 9, Engine House Cat
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 8, Finding a Pen
- The Polish Squad
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 7, Wayne Soap
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 6, Junk Yard Goat
- The 1967 Riot in Detroit 3
- Department Legends
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 5, The Fonz
- The 1967 Riot (an entry from Tom Hart)
- The 1967 Detroit Riot
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 4, Howard
- The Buhl Building Fire
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 3, Engine 27
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 2, Roof Rescue
- Tales of the 7th Battalion 1, Explosion
- The worst 7th Battalion Fire
- Fire Incidents
- Beeler's Fog Monster
- Thoughts of a Retired Firefighter
- Dogs of the Realm
- Going to the Dogs
- Firefighter/Lawyer ?
- Moe Tales
- The Legend of Moe
- A POEM: When Brave Men Cry