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Fighting fires on Devil’s Night in Detroit

This job has been quite the experience in the short month I have been working



By Scott Ziegler

There have been fires all over the city, all day long. As we picked up from our last one, an alarm was struck for another.

I’m sure many of you have heard about Devil’s Night in Detroit. In case you haven’t, I will start off with a quick explanation. Devil’s Night, as it’s referred to, takes place on the night before Halloween every year. They say it goes all the way back to the 30s. It started out as mostly mischief and minor vandalism committed by youths. But in the 1970s the night started living up to its name a bit more, as people started committing the act of arson.

This peaked in the 80s. In 1984, the city had 800 arson fires on October 30. I’m not talking about lighting stuff in a bag and throwing it on a porch. I’m talking about 800 working structure fires.

Since then, Devil’s Night has expanded to the three nights leading up to Halloween. Up until the 90s, there would be around 500-800 fires on those three nights alone. Some guys call it “Devil’s Week.”

In 1995, after a brutal night the year before, the city gave Devil’s Night a new name: “Angel’s Night.” Since that time, thousands of volunteers have gotten together every year on Oct. 30 to patrol the streets. They have flashlights, radios and yellow lights on their vehicles. They even get a cool shirt. According to the city, this “community policing” plan has worked. The presence of so many people seems to have scared the arsonists enough to drop the numbers significantly.

All that said, last year the city still reported 94 fires in the three-day period. I personally think the numbers might be higher than that, but I honestly have no idea. I just know that even 94 fires is more than most places see in an entire year. But, crazy as it sounds, that number is also comparable to most other nights in Detroit. It’s not a secret how many fires this department sees in a 24-hour period.

So far this week, I have stretched on a garage fire that was fully involved and a very heavily involved dwelling fire that we attacked aggressively with the bundles. And as I ended the last sentence while writing this article, the bell went off for another box alarm.

Engine 53 got there first and stretched on a two-story single family dwelling, with fire on the first floor. We followed behind them and ended up chasing fire into the basement.

It’s now midnight. It’s time for me to go to sleep before we get the next one.

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