Chances are, at least 30 buildings have caught fire in the city of Detroit today, a count twice the daily average of any other American city. “I feel like I’m in the burning of Rome,” declares one of the firefighters depicted in Burn, an engrossing documentary from co-directors Tom Putnam (Marwencol) and Brenna Sanchez. The filmmakers spent a year with the eight men of Engine Company 50, all of whom remain dedicated to their mission despite a steady drumbeat of bad news. The city is flat broke, their uniforms and trucks are patched together with duct tape, and one of their own, a 30-year-old charmer known as Doogie, was paralyzed after a wall fell on him during a fire. The directors track his wrenching journey through rehab, just as they note the final working days of Dave Parnell, a beloved 33-year vet on the verge of retirement. Parnell is clearly a fine man, but Burn could use less coverage of him with his doting family, and more of the helmet-cam footage Putnam and Sanchez have assembled into a series of harrowing montages. Those fires, most of them set by arsonists, burn with hellish ferocity, and a terrible, haunting beauty.
Tom Putnam, Brenna SanchezDonald Austin, Brendan "Doogie" Milewski, Dave ParnellTom Putnam, Brenna SanchezDenis Leary, Jim SerpicoArea 23a