DETROIT - We all know why there's a fire department but unless your home or your life has been touched by fire it's hard to imagine just how vital a role firefighters play in the city.
Bernard West remembers the day very clearly. It was early September, 2010. Nearly one hundred fires burned across Detroit; many of them simultaneously. Crews scrambled to scene after scene in a desperate attempt to save lives and property.
"It was serious. Very serious!"
There's no telling what would happen if another firestorm were to occur today because engine 51, the station that Bernard West credits with saving his home and his block for that matter is now closed.
"I don't know the exact time frame, but it's been over six months."
Jamon Martin knows. He used to work there and he and his fellow firefighters have taken to the streets to protest further cuts; cuts they say have already had a negative impact on response times.
Senior firefighter Dennis Hunter says, "By the time we get there it's gone from one house to the next. So one house turns into two sometimes three. We need more manpower. We need more companies open. "
They present a compelling argument but it comes at a time when Detroit is in the midst of a financial crisis. Crews we spoke to say they understand cuts have to be made, but they say cutting any deeper into the fire department's budget, could come at a cost no one wants to pay.