Detroit firefighters brace for Fourth of July weekend that rivals Devils’ Night

More than 100 fires broke out in Detroit during last year's Fourth of July weekend. Photo by Steve Neavling/MCM
More than 100 fires broke out in Detroit during last year’s Fourth of July weekend. Photo by Steve Neavling/MCM

Update: We will provide the breakdown of fires on Monday. 

Part of yearlong analysis of the beleaguered Detroit Fire Department. 

For four decades, Devils’ Night has been the most destructive period for fires in Detroit.

But for the first time since the 1970s, that dubious distinction fell to the three-day Fourth of July weekend last year, when 112 fires broke out, damaging or destroying 57 houses, six apartments, eight commercial buildings, 10 cars, 15 Dumpsters, a donation box and a handful of other items. Most of the fires were suspicious.

That exceeded the 97 fires that broke out during the Devils’ Night period of Oct. 29-31 in 2013 and the 98 in 2014.

Devils Night

If this weekend is as busy as the past several years, Detroit may be in serious trouble.  The city’s long-neglected fleet of engine and ladder trucks is breaking down at unprecedented rates, leaving sections of the city without immediate fire protection. The fleet is in such bad shape that dispatchers routinely send broken rigs to fires.

Hydrants also continue to malfunction and hamper firefighting efforts.

On Friday and early Saturday morning, more than two dozen fires broke out, most of them suspicious and in houses. Bad hydrants hindered firefighters during at least two house fires.

Motor City Muckraker will be documenting and mapping out every fire this weekend and the city’s ability to respond. An update will be posted Monday.

City officials were hoping to receive 10 new fire engines by the weekend, but a questionable bidding process has led to cost overruns and delays. The first three engines are expected to hit the road later this month.

Mayor Mike Duggan declined to comment on the fires or the city’s struggle to provide adequate fire protection.

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.