Devil returns on Fourth of July weekend: 140 fires break out in Detroit

The map shows all structure fires from 8 p.m. Saturday to Tuesday morning.  

The devil has returned.

About 140 fires broke out in Detroit and Highland Park from 8 p.m. Saturday to sunrise Tuesday, nearly triple the number of blazes during the three-day Devils’ Night period last year.

For at least three consecutive years, more fires have broken out on the Fourth of July than Devils’ Night, a decades-long, but fading tradition of setting houses, buildings, cars and trash cans ablaze.

Here’s a look at all fires between 8 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. Tuesday, compiled by Motor City Muckraker:

  • Houses: 45
  • Garages: 8
  • Apartments: 4
  • Commercial buildings: 4
  • Hospitals: 1
  • Brush, grass, trash: 58
  • Cars: 10
  • Dumpsters: 9
  • Playscape: 1

The fires were predominately fueled by arson, dry conditions and fireworks.

At least one firefighter was injured early Tuesday morning.

The worst of the fires began just after sunset on Monday and continued until sunrise. At 2:21 a.m., flames tore through the roof and windows of a vacant apartment building at Regular and Crawford on the west side. In the next 20 minutes, fire broke out in three houses and a garage in separate areas of the city.

Just as those fires were getting extinguished, another rash of fires broke out between 4 a.m. and 4:40 a.m. A house fire in Highland Park spread to three neighboring occupied homes after the city’s aerial ladder truck malfunctioned and the hydrants failed to work. Three more house fires broke out, two of which spread to adjacent homes.

The Fire Department was better prepared than previous years. Commissioner Eric Jones added five rigs to the fleet and more law enforcement officials to investigate arsons.

Mayor Mike Duggan and some of his predecessors have credited the decline in Devils’ Night fires to volunteer community patrols. But the city hasn’t mobilized volunteer patrols on the Fourth of July, when more fires are breaking out.

For more details on the fire, check out our live blog of the fires.

If you want us to continue providing this type of coverage, please consider a donation before our fundraiser ends this week.

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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.