In-depth survey reveals devastating impact of fires on Detroit’s neighborhoods

A first-of-its-kind survey reveals the devastating impact of fires on Detroit’s neighborhoods at a time when the city is struggling to stabilize residential areas.

From Jan. 1 to July 31, fires damaged or destroyed more than 1,650 houses, apartments, commercial buildings, schools, hospitals and churches, according to Loveland Technologies, a Detroit-based research and mapping group that provides detailed information about every parcel in the city.

Snippet of the Loveland Technologies survey.
Snippet of the Loveland Technologies survey.

A vast majority of those fires – 1,495 – were in houses and apartments. More than half were occupied.

“Occupied residential fires are especially devastating, forcing people out of their homes and eating away at the stability of the city’s neighborhoods,” the report states.

Click here to see the report, photos and an interactive map. 

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Two houses burn in Detroit. Photo by Steve Neavling.

The survey, which included assessing damage and occupancy after every fire, was intended “to clearly and accurately visualize the impact of fires in Detroit.”

“Thousands of buildings across the city have suffered some form of fire damage, leaving physical and social holes in the urban fabric that makes up Detroit’s neighborhoods,” the report’s author, John Grover, wrote.

Arsons played a significant role. About 58% of all structures fires were suspicious or intentional, and another 18% were of unknown origin.
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Nearly half of all fires were extensive enough to make the structures “uninhabitable,” displacing more than 1,000 people. Demolishing those 729 houses would cost an estimated $7.5 million, the study estimated.

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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