Detroit Firefighters Credited With Angels' Night Success

Mayor Dave Bing credited hard work by Detroit's public safety workers and committed volunteers for keeping this year's tally of fires over the Halloween period below what the city would see on average days.

"Angels Night was another tremendous night for us in the city of Detroit, a lot of success," Bing said this afternoon at a press conference at the city's Southwest Public Safety Center on Fort Street.

Detroit Fire Commissioner Don Austin said there were 93 fires citywide Monday through Wednesday, the so-called Devil's Night period that saw arsons rise dramatically in some previous years, drawing international attention to a holiday tradition that scorched the Motor City in the 1980s.

Last year, there were 94 fires.

Austin said the city averages about 40 fires a night throughout the year, so the Angels Night attention -- with thousands of volunteers patrolling the city around the clock -- again pushed the count below normal.

Austin said 39 fires were reported in occupied dwellings, 20 in vacant buildings, 12 in automobiles and 18 rubbish fires over the three days. About two-thirds of the fires were considered suspicious by responding firefighters, Austin said, but arson investigators were still determining causes and potential culprits. No arson arrests had been made as of Thursday.

The Detroit Police Department said far fewer minors were detained for violating the city's Angels Night curfews: about 50 this year, compared to 123 in 2012. The city issued about 20 tickets to parents under a city ordinance holding parents responsible for making sure their kids don't violate the curfew.

Bing gave credit to police and firefighters who stepped up to make sure there were enough public safety workers on duty over the three days to help battle arsons.

Bing acknowledged that the cold and rainy weather also played a part in keeping the number of fires down, but Austin said the evening of Oct. 29 could have been far worse, because heavy winds could have hampered firefighters.

Austin said there were no clusters of fires, but they were concentrated Monday night on the city's northeast side and Wednesday night on the west side.

Bing said that even with the success the city won'tl ease up on its annual campaign against the blazes.

"Our long-term goal is we don't want this as something that goes on forever and ever," Bing said. "As this continues to improve and trend down, hopefully we won't have to have this kind of commitment."

Copyright 2012 - Detroit Free Press

McClatchy-Tribune News Service