About BURN

BURN is an action-packed, award-winning film exploring human struggles, hope and personal courage in the face of overwhelming odds.

From executive producer Denis Leary and Jim Serpico (Rescue Me), this riveting and inspiring film spends a year with Detroit firefighters, who are charged with the thankless task of saving a city many have written off as dead.

With vast stretches of abandoned buildings, the highest arson rate in the country, and a budget crisis of epic proportions, these brave men and women risk injury, disablement, and death to try and make a difference for the city they call home.

The firefighters’ worst fears are realized when a charismatic young fireman is devastatingly injured on the job. The brotherhood is tested when the city turns to a new fire commissioner to shake up the system with hard-line decisions and drastic, often controversial measures.

Closer than you’ve ever been, BURN takes you into the fires and into the lives of those who fight them in the most overworked and worst-funded fire department in the United States.


On November 15, 2008, veteran Detroit firefighter Walter Harris was killed battling a blaze in a vacant house.

A few weeks later, NPR ran a story about Detroit firefighters and the city’s increasing load of abandoned homes. (You can listen here.)

Filmmakers Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez, a native Detroiter, asked themselves a seemingly simple question: “In a city full of 80,000 vacant structures, why would anyone risk his life for one?” We knew there was a story there. We pitched the idea to every production company, studio, and cable network that you watch in your homes every day. They all loved the project, but said the same thing — that our ambitions were too high, and that there was absolutely no audience for a firefighter series or film. We didn’t take no for an answer.

Today, BURN may be one of the largest films funded entirely by charitable donations — no investors. We raised the money ourselves, in $5-, $10-, $100- and $1000-dollar donations from corporations and individuals. We put together a unique funding structure, blending donations, sponsors and “in-kind” support of goods, gear and services.

When the film was finished and premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, we received tremendous reviews and took home the Audience Award! But no distributor — again, they didn’t believe there was an audience for BURN. So we decided to distribute the movie ourselves. We have broken records for self-distributing BURN — with no commercial distributor, BURN has screened in 170 cities! This is NOT how most movies are made or distributed!

From the start, we have been committed to making a film we can all be proud of.

A portion of all BURN sales goes to the Leary Firefighters Foundation to purchase gear for Detroit firefighters. Thanks to our supporters, we donated $115,000 in 2013!