Dousing the Devil: Record low fires break out during pre-Halloween tradition

Detroit has doused the devil.

During the three-day Devil’s Night period, only 52 fires broke out – the lowest number since at least the 1970s. The previous record low was 93 in 2012.

Only 23 of the 52 fires were deemed suspicious.

Fires broke out in 35 houses and spread to an additional seven homes. One injury was reported.

For the second year in a row, July 4 recorded more fires than Devil’s Night. In just 10 hours beginning at 8 p.m. on July 4, more than 60 fires broke out in houses, garages, cars, trash cans and a vacant furniture store.

Devil’s Night fires have gradually declined since 1984, when 810 fires broke out and firefighter response times jumped to seven hours.

Devil’s Night began as early as the 1930s when pranksters threw eggs and toilet paper at houses. The mischievous escalated to arson in the 1970s.

After 354 fires broke out in 1994, then-Mayor Dennis Archer created “Angels’ Night” with thousands of volunteer patrols, strict curfews and bans on portable gas containers.  In 1995, the number of fires declined to 158.

Mayor Mike Duggan oversaw another aggressive anti-arson campaign as thousands of people volunteered to patrol the streets this year. Police and arson investigators were on hand at most fires.

“I can’t say enough about the dedicated volunteers who have come out year after year.  This is their accomplishment,” Mayor Duggan said. “This was a total community effort.”

It’s unclear what accounts for the dramatic decline in fires this year, but it’s difficult to deny the impact of Mayor Duggan’s demolition efforts. Since he took office in January 2014, the city has razed more than 7,000 houses and 150 commercial buildings, offering fewer targets for arsonists.



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.

  • Donald E. Hodge

    Thank you Steve for all your hard work covering this topic. A lot of people might respond to this by saying ” well that`s his job, hes a reporter. ” yes true. But also a Reporter with Balls like the Detroit Firemen and women that he writes about day in and day out. these bull shit reporters would never, ever cover the Fire Department the in the manor Steve has. Hell ask Charlie LeDuff. when the frosted flakes reporters hit a nerve in a story their sissy city owned bosses tell them to back down or loose your job. again ask Charlie LeDuff. So my Brother take a bow. If it was not for these stories in the Muckraker we might be somewhere else right now. maybe a story about a firemen falling through a floor or someone dying a senseless death like Lt. Walt Harris. Steve you shined an important light on a subject that everyone needed to not only hear about but final deal with. I will always admire you for that. thank you. much Love Big Don. oh and all the Firemen and women, Chiefs and Paramedics, truck mechanics and dispatchers and Fire marshals, everyone else at HQ. I love you guys too. Thanks for keeping me safe.