The Leary Firefighters Foundation

BURN Documentary, Leary Foundation Donates $115K to Detroit FD

DETROIT (December 11, 2013) Commissioner Donald Austin announced that the Detroit Fire Department will receive a donation of $115,000 from the documentary “BURN” through The Leary Firefighters Foundation. The donation represents a portion of profits from the film, and will be used to purchase much-needed gear for the Department.

The donation will be presented in Detroit to the Detroit Fire Department by Denis Leary, Jim Serpico, Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez in an event targeted for early 2014.

BURN, the action-packed, award-winning film from Directors/Producers Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez and Executive Producers, and Leary Firefighters Foundation Board members, Denis Leary and Jim Serpico, takes audiences to the front lines of Detroit and into the fires and lives of the men who fight them, exploring human struggles, hope and personal courage in the face of overwhelming odds.  General Motors was a primary supporter of the film and was highly instrumental in getting the project off the ground, especially in the early stages of development.

“Tom and Brenna have been great partners with the Detroit Fire Department,” said Executive Fire Commissioner Donald R. Austin. “Their documentary provides an insight into the commitment and dedication of the men and women of the Detroit Fire Department. There are significant fiscal challenges in Detroit that make it difficult to provide sometimes the most basic tools and equipment. The documentary has certainly put our needs and challenges out there and we appreciate the support. The situation in Detroit is on the cusp of significant change for the better. The entire Fire Department and the citizens of Detroit are forever grateful for this significant gift.”

“This film showcased the dedication and commitment of Detroit Firefighters in keeping our community safe when facing incredible odds.  We honor their spirit and courage each and every day,” said Steve Tihanyi, General Director, Marketing Alliances and Branded Entertainment for General Motors.

“Each time we are blessed with the ability to donate funds which will help the brave and courageous firefighters of this country,  we do so with gratitude and admiration,” said Denis Leary of the Leary Firefighters Foundation. “Every dollar makes a difference. I've had the opportunity to meet and spend time with the firefighters featured in our film BURN and I know the circumstances they work under. I sincerely hope this gift can aid them and their fellow firefighters in making improvements on the job.”

“BURN is the firefighters’ story, we just helped them tell it,” said Putnam. “From the beginning, we knew we wanted to give back. But we never thought the give would be this big.”  Sanchez continued, “When no one wanted to distribute BURN, we worked our tails off to self-distribute it. Independent films rarely make a profit. We made damn sure this one would, so we could make good on our promise to give back. We appreciate Mayor Bing, Commissioner Austin and the Fire Department for working with us to make it happen.”


The DFD operates approximately 43 fire companies and 172 firefighters on-duty daily across 139 square miles. This represents a 27% reduction from the original 59 companies. We operate 11 Ladders, 26 Engines, six Squads. There are approximately 80,000 vacant structures and almost half are considered vacant and dangerous. Approximately 60% of our structure firefighting effort occurs in vacant structures.

We have, however, had great success with FEMA grants. The Department has received the two largest FEMA Staffing For Adequate Fire Response (SAFER) grant awarded by FEMA; $22.1 M followed by a $24M. Thanks to the Detroit Public Safety Foundation funding our grant writers, we have received over $55M in grants over the last 29 months. The Department convinced the Mayor’s office to allocate $2.9M for apparatus repair and purchase.

There are many transformative efforts underway within the Department. On October 1, 2013, the Department deployed automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) on most of its fire apparatus. Thirty days later we had our AED first save of a citizen by firefighters at Engine 27. Many members are beginning to get EMT certifications in anticipating of expanding our services to the public. This is an exciting time of change for the Department that will benefit the citizens and firefighters.” — Executive Fire Commissioner Donald R. Austin


BURN is an action-packed, character-driven film about Detroit, told through the eyes of Detroit firefighters. Directed, produced, and fundraised by Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez, BURN is one of the largest films ever funded entirely through charitable donations. The film’s budget was raised through fiscal sponsorships, corporate donations, in-kind donations, Kickstarter, and crew deferrals. With no distribution offer in place following BURN’s 2012 Tribeca Film Festival premiere and Audience Award, Putnam and Sanchez released the film themselves. BURN broke self-distribution records  — the film has screened theatrically in more than 170 cities. Upon its home video release, BURN was the #1 Documentary, #1 Indie, and #9 Action Adventure film on iTunes. It is also available on Netflix and Hulu. A portion of profits from the film continues to go to the Leary Firefighters Foundation to purchase gear for Detroit firefighters. Please visit to purchase the film or donate directly.


The Leary Firefighters Foundation provides funding and resources for fire departments to get the best available equipment, technology and training necessary for the health and safety of firefighters and in turn, the public they serve. Founded in 2000 by actor Denis Leary in response to the 1999 Cold Storage Warehouse fire tragedy in his native Worcester, Massachusetts, LFF has raised more than $10 million for first responders in Worcester, Boston, New York, New Jersey and New Orleans. The Leary Firefighter Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization as designated by the Internal Revenue Code.  Please visit us at for further information.