LOS ANGELES – Denis Leary, the co-creator and star of the acclaimed firefighting drama "Rescue Me," also put the spotlight on the unique dangers Detroit-based firefighters face doing their jobs every day.
Leary executive produced the documentary “Burn,” now available on DVD and VOD, which chronicles the live of Detroit firefighters who, despite low wages and dysfunctional gear, continue to put their lives on the line.
“Detroit is a city in financial turmoil. This burden leads to people attempting to burn the buildings they own to get the insurance money. Then you have empty urban buildings with homeless people squatting inside and building fires to keep themselves warm or cook food – a recipe for disaster,” Leary told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “My cousin Jerry Lucey and five other firefighters died in a warehouse fire in Worcester, Mass. – my hometown – right in the middle of our old neighborhood downtown when a homeless couple started a fire to keep warm and the entire building went up. My cousin died trying to save homeless people who had already left the building. Such is often the nature of courage and devotion to the mission of a fire crew.”
The Worcester tragedy in 1999, in which six firefighters including Lucey perished, prompted Leary to start the non-profit organization the Leary Firefighters Foundation (LFF) in an effort to provide firefighters across the country the best vehicles, equipment, and training. “Most people don’t know how underpaid and often ill-equipped urban fire departments are across North America,” Leary said. “Asking firefighters to work under the current conditions they face – in Detroit and many other cities – is like asking our Armed Forces to face combat without up-to-date weapons.”
Leary also offered support to those mourning the recent loss of 19 firefighters in Arizona.
“We first stand back and let the community and it’s fire officials deal with their grief and emotional recovery," Leary said. "Our main mission involves training and equipment but when families find themselves in dire need we do our best to solve the situation."
And while told through the eyes of Detroit’s blaze battlers, Leary said “Burn” isn’t just about a single city, it’s about all of America’s first responders whose budgets are being reduced.
“The most surprising thing for the audience will be the true sense of brotherhood and family firefighters feel for each other and the audacious amount of courage they consume each day with,” Leary added. “Some people have witnessed the fictional version of this on ‘Rescue Me’ – the laughter, the anger, the drama, the action – but here it is real and ripped from the reality they face. And all of it – inside the fire and inside the firehouse – is on display.”
Danielle Jones-Wesley contributed to this report.