Suspicious fires gut church, apartment building, 5 houses in 3-block area

Apartment building at 5200 W. Chicago.
Apartment building at 5200 W. Chicago. (Steve Neavling/MCM)

The Detroit Fire Department is searching for a brazen arsonist or arsonists who are believed to be behind enormous fires in a three-block area on the west side – a little more than a week before Devil’s Night.

Since Friday, suspicious fires have gutted a four-story apartment building, a church and five houses just off of W. Grand River between Joy and Livernois.
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All were vacant.

As the fires raged, arson investigators were rarely available.

The first fire broke out at 2:55 a.m. Friday inside a large, vacant four-story apartment at 5200 W. Chicago, devouring the large brick building and requiring more than 50 firefighters to extinguish.

dundee church fire
Former World and Faith Christian Center at 9611 Dundee St.

On Sunday at 3:25 p.m., fire ripped through an abandoned church and adjoining building at 9611 Dundee St., a block north of the apartment blaze. The fire gutted the World and Faith Christian Center.

About seven hours later, two houses across the street from each other on Chenlot were ablaze when firefighters arrived at 10:24 p.m.

Just 20 minutes later, a house erupted in flames a block south on Dundee.

As firefighters were extinguishing the other blazes, they spotted yet another house fire a block away on W. Chicago at 12:03 a.m.  An hour later, a fire broke out inside a large duplex.

The fires come less than two weeks before Devil’s Night, when dozens of houses and building are intentionally set afire.

The Fire Department is struggling with an aging, neglected fleet of rigs, an insufficient number of arson investigators and worn-down firefighters.

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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