The owners of a Detroit home are expressing outrage after a group of firefighters stopped to pose for a selfie in front of the burning building on New Year’s Eve — a picture that the owners said prevented them from saving the structure.
Those individuals are now facing discipline for the ill-timed selfie, according to new reports.
As the New York Post noted, the image of the Detroit firefighters posing and smiling in front of the two-story home gained some viral interest this week, showing 18 firefighters standing together in rows in front of the house as it was engulfed in flames. Deonte Higginbotham, whose family has owned the home for 50 years, spoke out this week and demanded that the men be canned for the selfie.
“They just let it burn to the ground … Eighteen men and none of them did anything,” he said. “All of them need to be fired.”
The picture was later shared on a Detroit Fire Incidents Facebook page and stirred controversy, with many speaking out against the firefighters for making light of a dangerous situation.
Deputy Fire Commissioner Dave Fornell said that the house was vacant and that the men posed with a fire chief who was retiring, but admitted it was “not professional” for them to pose for the picture. But the New York Post noted that the home appeared to be owned and well-cared for, even as homes around it appeared to be vacant. Higginbotham said that he and his mother, who has Alzheimer’s, were not in the house on New Year’s Eve as it was undergoing renovations, but the 21-year-old said he lived there for his entire life.
As NBC News Philadelphia reported, the Detroit firefighters who posed for the selfie will now be disciplined. Fornell said that the firefighters could not have saved the house, as it was too dangerous to enter, but Detroit Fire Commissioner Eric Jones said that they will still be facing trouble for the “inappropriate and unprofessional behavior.” The department had previously announced an investigation into the incident, which appeared to have moved quickly.
“There are a lot of ways to celebrate a retirement,” Jones said in a statement. “Taking a photo in front of a building fire is not one of them.”
“Behind every fire is a devastated family or property owner.”
It was not yet clear what discipline the Detroit firefighters would face for the New Year’s Eve selfie.