Nightly News | September 08, 2010
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: The city of Detroit did not need what happened there last night. In the past few decades they've survived riots, urban blight, a deep plunge in the car business, always fighting though to keep Detroit alive. Then last night a fire started. It combined with a wind storm and seemed to spread through the air. There was no way the city's already stressed fire department , or any big fire department for that matter, could have kept up with this. Our report tonight from NBC 's Kevin Tibbles , who is with us from Detroit . Kevin , good evening.
KEVIN TIBBLES reporting: Good evening, Brian . When the winds hit Detroit last night, they set off a firestorm that threatened to consume entire neighborhoods. Along this street alone, four houses burned before the fire department even got here. In just a few hours the Detroit fire department was confronted with 85 buildings burning out of control. Many of them abandoned homes and other vacant structures in sections of the Motor City hit hard by the struggling economy. Eight of the fires started when power lines were downed by heavy sustained winds. The flames whipped by strong gusts up to 50 miles per hour, sending plumes of smoke into the air.
Unidentified Woman #1: It was chaos. Seemed like they couldn't get it under control.
TIBBLES: Many tender dry adjoining structures caught fire from the flying sparks.
Unidentified Woman #2: But I've never seen fire move like that. I mean, you couldn't see. It was so much smoke over here just looked like debris from a tornado.
TIBBLES: Today, Detroit 's mayor praised the Motor City 's first responders.
Mayor DAVE BING (Democrat, Detroit): They just did a yeoman's job under some terrible, terrible conditions to make sure that there was no loss of life.
TIBBLES: Hundreds of firefighters responded, many from the suburbs, called in for the first time since the 1967 riots here. Today there is criticism Detroit 's emergency services have been cut too thin.
Woman #2: The fire department got here too late. They got here late.
TIBBLES: These fires just another blow to a still proud city that has seen more than its share of setbacks.
Ms. CARMEN HARLAN (WDIV-TV): Let's hope that this is the bottom. That the bottom is where we are now, and the only place that we can look now is upward.
TIBBLES: For many who last night watched in horror, hope for something better is still a long way off. And, Brian , today the mayor bristled at the suggestion that budget cuts were putting lives at risk. He says what happened here was a natural disaster.
Brian: As we said, that city sure didn't need it. Kevin Tibbles with us from Detroit tonight. Kevin , thanks for your