Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press, November 1, 2014
For the fourth year in a row, Detroit saw the numbers of fires during the three-day Angels’ Night period stay below 100.
Fewer than half of the 97 fires, reported from 12:01 a.m. Wednesday through midnight Friday, were deemed suspicious, according to the city.
That’s a far cry from the 1980s, when the days and nights around Halloween saw a city ablaze with suspicious fires. In 1984, the total number of fires stood at 810, an infamous phenomenon that left a beleaguered fire department without enough resources to fight back effectively.
City leaders credited the more controlled number of fires this year to vigorous enforcement that led to numerous arrests, including one person seen running with a gasoline can, and the work of thousands of volunteers.
“So to the 3,900 volunteers, I just want to thank you,” Mayor Mike Duggan said during a press conference today at the city’s Public Safety Headquarters. “It’s not my nature to say we only had 97 fires and declare that a success–it really isn’t my idea of success–but when you start this period with 50,000 abandoned buildings spread out over 139 square miles you can see the potential for really bad results, and the only way we could have effectively fought it was with the volunteers.”
The number of fires during the period has held in the 90s for the last four years, since 2010, when at least 167 fires were reported. Before that, there was also a spike to 354 in 1994.
Fire Commissioner Edsel Jenkins said three suspects were arrested by the arson squad on Thursday, including one who had a “positive hit for gasoline.” Warrants were expected to be presented to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office today, he said, noting that even before the Angels’ Night period, 10 people had been arrested.