Fires tore through 20 houses and two commercial buildings in Detroit overnight, injuring two firefighters and underscoring the vulnerability of a city seemingly incapable of handling the unending arson crisis.
No arson investigators were on hand as suspicious fires broke out across the city from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., leveling houses that were often within blocks of each other.
In a one-hour period starting at 1 a.m., more than 30 firefighters descended on a four-block area in southwest Detroit to extinguish four suspicious fires in abandoned houses. One of those firefighters was injured and taken to the hospital.
Another firefighter was injured at 6 a.m. after a fire broke out for the second time at a house on Cameron near I-75 and 8 Mile.
Neither firefighter was seriously injured.
The suspicious fires follow the Fourth of July weekend when more than 100 fires broke out, most of them in vacant houses and buildings.
The city’s Fire Department is severely understaffed and has an aging fleet of trucks and engines. Nearly all of Detroit’s aerial and tower trucks – vital to fighting big fires – are out of service. Two of the city’s six squads, which are used to rescue civilians, were broken down this morning.
As the city wends its way through bankruptcy court, there’s little Mayor Mike Duggan can do, though he hopes to soon add investigators to the city’s depleted arson unit.
In 2012, Mayor Dave Bing and City Council reduced the fire department’s budget by 20%, cutting stations and continuing a hiring freeze that has drastically reduced the number of firefighters.
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.