Night of hell: Arsonists ravaged as many as 18 homes in Detroit; station closures taking a toll

fire elmer mcgrawSuspicious fires ripped through 18 houses in Detroit – many of them occupied – from midnight Saturday until 7 a.m. the next day in what appears to be another rash of arsons in a city that can’t afford to keep its stations open and rigs on the road, dispatch records show.

During the 7-hour period, firefighters were beset with equipment failures, inadequate staffing and persistent wind.

A suspicious blaze that started in an abandoned house at 4 a.m. in southwest Detroit spread to four other homes, some of which were occupied, because the closest fire companies were either temporarily closed or permanently shut down last year as part of Mayor Dave Bing’s budget cuts.

The inferno on Elmer and McGraw burned half the block.

Staring at the debris in disbelief, two women mopped tears from their eyes.

fire elmer mcgraw“I just can’t believe it,” said one of the women, who asked not to be named. “Everything is gone.”

Less than three miles away and two hours earlier, a fierce blaze broke out inside an abandoned house at 7062 Senator. Neighbors tried in vain to douse the flames with a garden hose, but their house and another occupied home were severely damaged.

About 30 minutes later, a fire consumed three houses and a car on the west side near Brightmoor.

The city averages about 5,000 arsons a year and is a big reason home insurance is skyrocketing and people are fleeing.

This is part of an ongoing series on the arson epidemic in Detroit.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

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