Detroit fire truck theft sparks T-shirt fundraising campaign

The theft of two saws sparked a national firefighters' group to raise money for equipment and supplies for the department

Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — The theft of two saws from a Detroit fire truck has sparked a national firefighters’ group to raise money for equipment and supplies for the Detroit Fire Department.

The National Firefighters Endowment has created an online T-shirt sale aimed at raising $100,000.

“We’re filling in the gaps,” said Shane Parkins, president of the California-based nonprofit made up of firefighters, corporations, manufacturers and fire departments.

“Our goal is to be helpful,” he said Tuesday. “This whole campaign happened very quickly.”

The group is selling T-shirts through, printing T-shirts in waves, extending the campaign until the goal is reached.

The navy T-shirts with “DETROIT FIRE MUTUAL AID” in orange and white block letters are $20, with about $11 designated for donations, Parkins said.

They’ll use the money to purchase equipment requested by Detroit firefighters and listed on the website, like better boots and gloves, newer fans and tools — beyond an ax — the department doesn’t provide.

As of Sunday afternoon, 2,406 shirts had been sold, raising about $26,466.

“We have a long list of equipment requests,” Parkins said. “In fact, the requests far exceed $100,000. Through working with manufacturers, we’re hoping to have that money go a lot farther than if the department would buy it themselves.”

The endowment became involved with the Detroit Fire Department when two saws used to cut through roofs to vent heat during fires were stolen from Ladder 22 in January.

After getting an e-mail about the theft a few days after it happened, the group sold similar T-shirts and raised $5,000 to replace both saws in March.

“That equipment is absolutely vital to what we do at Ladder 22,” said Jeremy Mullins, 38, of Commerce Township, who has been a Detroit firefighter for 13 years.

“At first I was blown away,” he said last week. “I didn’t really think that anyone cared enough. I’m absolutely impressed with how far this has gone, and I can’t wait to see it get bigger.”

The National Firefighters Endowment is donating the cash and equipment through the Detroit Public Safety Foundation, a local nonprofit designed to support needs of Detroit police officers and firefighters.

Foundation President Catherine Govan said the group is making sure the donations match Detroit Fire Department standards and specifications.

That’s a main concern of Detroit Fire Commissioner Donald Austin, who welcomes the help as long as it’s managed by the Public Safety Foundation for consistency of tools, equipment and uniforms across the department.

“This whole thing is about standardization,” Austin said, explaining firefighters need to be able to know what to expect from rig to rig. “Our people, you can start off this morning at Engine 22 and potentially end up at Engine 40. If the rig breaks down, we may disperse the personnel. You need to be familiar with that equipment.”

He said he spoke last week to Parkins about the campaign.

“I’m excited about that,” Austin said. “We’re going move this thing forward.”

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