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muckraker report

Timeline: Houses, cars, garages catch on fire during relatively mild Devil’s Night

Motor City Muckraker will be on the streets tonight covering Devil’s Night and will bring you up-to-date coverage in this live blog.

Mary Phillips can’t think of a worse time for Devil’s Night.

“I won’t be sleeping tonight,” said Phillips, whose home on Concord on the city’s east side is surrounded by abandoned houses that are usually the target of arsonists during Devil’s Night tonight. “That wind is not good.”

Tonight will be a big test for the city, which recently laid off firefighters, as strong winds continue to wreak havoc on power lines and trees.

The wind is bothersome because it can spread fires quickly, especially in neighborhoods with multiple vacancies next to each other.

Further complicating the problem is street black-out from power outages, which gives arsonists extra cover.

We’ll bring you coverage once the fires begin.

6:45 p.m. False alarm for an apartment fire near the Lodge and Chicago.

7:15 p.m. All is quiet – for now.

7:21 p.m. House is on fire at Somerset and Courville on the city’s east side.

7:25 p.m. Car is on fire on east-side.

8:10 p.m. Fire in a two-story house near Dequindre and 8 Mile.

8:24 p.m. Downed power lines are on fire on northeast side. These could prove to be a problem later as firefighters become busier with house fires.

8:28 p.m.: Fire in vacant building at East 7 mile and Carrie.

8:31: Garage on fire on east side.

8:45: Occupied house on the east side is on fire, and extra companies called to help.

8:47 p.m.: House fire on Windsor and Chatsworth on the east side.

8:52 p.m.: House fire on the east side by the city airport.

9:20 p.m.: Driving six miles up Gratiot, I saw three TV news trucks but no police cars.

9:25 p.m.: A downed DTE transformer starts a fire in the back of a medical center at 20901 W. 7 Mile. Firefighters must wait for DTE to shut off the power because the electrical surge prevents them from dousing it with water.

10 p.m.: DTE says it will take another 20 minutes to respond to downed transformer.

11:45 p.m.: No fires reported for more than 90 minutes. Police and volunteers are abundant.

“We got to keep ourselves safe,” Linda Parker said, circling her neighborhood by the city airport with yellow flashers atop her car. “It’s a fight out here.”

Midnight: Three reports of fires.

12:05 a.m.: A two-story house in Delray that just last week was scorched by a neighboring fire was gutted by a suspicious blaze. The family had moved out last week, neighbors said.

The house on Melville was surrounded by burned-out homes, including one that caught fire at least eight times in the past two years, said neighbor Dennis Sanders.

“The city has written us off,” Sanders said. “This neighborhood is gone. We have to protect ourselves out here.”

2 a.m.: Two vacant buildings on fire at Rosa Parks near Chicago.

2:25 a.m.: Trees and a garage on fire on the east side.

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.