“As soon as we make a call to our central office” about a possible body, “the police department is notified,” a firefighter told me, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “But trust me, you’ll rarely see anyone excavating a scene for a body. The city doesn’t have the money for it.”


Burned-down houses become tombs for countless squatters in Detroit; city can’t afford excavation

An untold number of bodies are buried beneath the charred rubble of burned-down houses and buildings in Detroit.

Even when neighbors tell investigators that squatters are living in vacant buildings ravaged by fire, the city rarely does more than a cursory search. Police are charged with the task of searching for bodies after a fire is out, but for whatever reason, they rarely excavate for a more detailed inspection, the Muckraker has learned in interviews with firefighters and after six months of documenting fire scenes.

On Friday night, Ronnie Owens saw the familiar face of a squatter walking into a nearby abandoned apartment building on 14th Street on the west side. It was the same man who had been sleeping there for the past six months, he said.

Then came the orange glow of flames.

“Man, there’s no way he got out of there,” Owens said, checking out the brick rubble Saturday for any sign of the middle-aged man. “This place went up. Poof.”

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