'Angels' Night' Busy for Detroit Firefighters

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries as fires plagued the city of Detroit overnight during the annual Angels' Night Anti-Arson campaign, officials said.

One firefighter suffered a minor neck injury when a tree branch fell, and the other suffered minor burns, Detroit Fire Department Senior Chief Larry Gassel and Arson Unit Lt. Dennis Richardson said this morning.

No residents were injured, despite two suspicious fires in occupied homes on the city’s west side.

“The city was pretty busy,” Gassel said, estimating the city typically experiences five to 10 working structure fires on an average night. “We had at least that overnight.”

Angels’ Night includes the two days before Halloween and the holiday itself. City officials plan to release the final fire tally for the three-day period after Halloween.

Investigators found evidence of gasoline used at two fires in occupied homes during a rash of six or seven fires on the west side between midnight and 6 a.m., Richardson said. Everyone escaped unharmed from the house fires on Auburn Street near Grand River and Warwick Street near the Southfield Freeway. No arrests had been made as of this morning, Richardson said.

Officials and volunteers said Wednesday night started off quietly. But later on, a group of fires reportedly broke out on the city’s lower east side.

Gassel said four fires broke out roughly between 9:30 and 10 p.m. on the lower east side, south of Gratiot. At least some of the fires involved vacant houses, he said. Gassel also said he heard about two working fires that broke out after dark in an area west of Highland Park. One was a vacant structure, he said. He didn’t have information about the other one.

Angels’ Night began in the mid-1990s in response to the arson fires that scorched the city in the previous several years during what was then called Devil’s Night. In 1984, more than 800 fires were reported.

Officials have credited police and fire patrols and the efforts of thousands of volunteers with helping decrease arson activity around the holiday.

Last year, officials reported there were 93 fires across the city during the three-day Angels’ Night period. The tally was a seven-year low for the city, officials said. There were 94 fires during the same period in 2011, and there were 169 fires in 2010.

In the MorningSide neighborhood, which is bordered in part by I-94, Mack and Alter, 60 volunteers showed up to help patrol Tuesday. Dozens more were on board Wednesday night.

“It shows that we care about our community,” said Pamela McClain, who patrolled in MorningSide with other members of mayoral candidate Mike Duggan’s campaign. “It shows that we are willing to do whatever it takes to protect our community, particularly during this time.”

During Angels’ Night, an emergency curfew has been put in place that requires anyone who is 17 years or younger to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian 6 p.m.-6 a.m.