Firefighters hurt in arson building collapse

By James Quiggle
January 29, 2013

firefightersDetroit firefighter Brian Baulch didn’t remember the bricks raining down on him amid the inferno of a blazing two-story office building.

He was knocked unconscious. The hail of debris broke his nose and both feet, six ribs, his pelvis and six vertebrae.

He was the lucky one.

Fellow firefighter Brendan Milewski was paralyzed. They were among seven injured firefighters trapped and injured in a fire set by Calvin Jones and a crony to steal insurance money.

But the arson scheme spun desperately out of control, also ruining three businesses in the building.

The duo spewed gasoline into the structure through a hole in a brick wall they’d created earlier in the day, then lit the volatile brew afterward.

The building went up like a Roman candle. Chemicals started igniting, throwing toxic fumes into the air. Firefighters quickly arrived and forced their way inside. But the ceiling and roof of the second floor burned completely through. A brick wall collapsed onto the firefighters.

Four of the seven were critically hurt; bones were crushed into shards. Some firefighters required months of healing and rehab before they could return to work, and several will never work again.

A tipster turned in Jones and Wright afterward. Investigators soon found residue of gasoline in the wreckage — strong evidence of arson.

Wright intimidated him gunpoint into going along with the plan, Jones argued at trial. He also was just a lackey for the owner of a Metro PCS store in the building, he claimed. The owner had hired them to torch the store for a $15,000 cut of the expected insurance payout, he said.

Jones showed little remorse when convicted, and insisted he didn’t get a fair trial.

The court wasn’t impressed, and firefighters were steamed. Jones received 15 years in federal prison in December 2011. That just qualified him for this year’s Hall of Shame. Wright received 15 years in prison earlier last year. The storeowner’s fate has not been publicly announced.

More than 30 firefighters sat side by side at Jones’ sentencing. The crippled Milewski will never combat fires again. He wanted one last word.

“The scars and images from that day never leave my mind. They are so vivid because I never lost consciousness after the wall came down on me,” he said.

“I would trade places with you in a heartbeat and serve your sentence if it meant that one day I would be able to walk out of prison and enjoy life as I used to. “No one wins in this situation. You and Mr. Wright are headed to prison, and three of us injured that day were forced to retire from a career we loved.”

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