Witness to deadly fire says hydrants off-line didn't stop adequate DFD response

Posted at 2:41 PM, Sep 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-18 14:41:33-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — For witness Johnny Graham, it was both frightening and frantic watching a home two doors down begin to burn Thursday at 4:30 p.m. Inside, firefighters say 61-year-old Tyronne Williams was confined to a wheelchair and unable to get out.

“It was sad to see it," Graham said. "A lot of smoke came thru the roof. That room was totally engulfed.”

While several hydrants were offline due to upgrades being installed, Graham adds that skilled firefighters connected to other hydrants immediately to battle flames at the two-story home in the 12700 block of E. Outer Dr.

“That particular day there was no issue with the water," Graha said. "They were already inside shooting the water thru the windows and that type of thing” says Graham.

Part of a statement from the Detroit Fire Department and Detroit Water Sewage Department reads:

“On Thursday, September 12, the day of the house fire, there were 5 hydrants temporarily offline during the water main replacement. The fire department secured water from a hydrant approximately 200 feet from the burning home. It was a water department employee who saw smoke emanating from the home and called 911... The water dept. is investigating the communications protocols employed during this event.”

Family members have declined to talk about what happened. Sources do say firefighters should have been made aware of the status of hydrants sooner. Nonetheless, Graham believes any suggestion a communication delay somehow led to tragedy is simply unfair until more info is known.

Family members are in the process of making funeral arrangements, and we’ve learned this investigation is still far from over.