Brazen arsonist strikes 5th Heidelberg Project house in 2 months

Artist Tyree Guyton paced on a grassy, smokey lot Sunday night, his face firm and glowing orange.

A raging fire was consuming the fifth Heidelberg Project house in just 65 days. It was the eighth since May 2, and investigators believe each was intentionally set.
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“It’s time to fight back,” Guyton told me. “We gotta do something about this.”

The fire broke out sometime after 10 p.m. and quickly devoured the “Clock House,” which was adorned with paintings of clocks. At Guyton’s request, firefighters saved a wall on the wood-frame house, but the rest of the home crumbled into a charred heap.

Guyton said he will begin rebuilding in the morning.

Guyton created the Heidelberg Project in 1986 after he lost three brothers to the streets. He wanted to brighten up the blight and call attention to the poverty and decay that still eat away at Detroit’s neighborhoods. Guyton slowly began decorating abandoned wood-frame houses with found objects and erected other installations in vacant lots.

The project is now world-renowned and a popular tourist destination.

In the wake of the fires, supporters are holding a fundraiser to help rebuild.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible.

“Arsons can have a devastating effect on the community, our chief concern is for families in the surrounding homes and for the lives of the firefighters who respond to these fires,” Daryl McCrary, acting ATF special agent in charge, said.

The fires have destroyed the “House of Soul,” “War House,” Penny House and Obstruction of Justice House in the past two months.

Anyone with information is asked to call the ATF Hotline at (888) ATF-Fire or the Detroit Fire Arson Unit at (313) 596-2940.

Check out a photo gallery of the remaining house installations in or near the Heidelberg Project.

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.

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