Detroit: 21 fires fought on Halloween eve

James David Dickson
The Detroit News
Angels Night volunters gather at the Don Bosco Community Center on West Chicago in Detroit Monday evening.


Firefighters in Detroit put out 21 blazes on the eve of Halloween, which has traditionally been known as Devil's Night.

This compares to the eight blazes Detroit firefighters extinguish in a typical night.

In the years since Devil's Night reached its peak, in 1984, when there were 810 fires set in the city, Detroit officials have worked to rebrand the day before Halloween as "Angels' Night."

Volunteers have been sought and gone on patrols around the city for decades by now; this year, 6,000 volunteers showed up. Strict curfews for minors have been put in place. On Oct. 30, those 17 or younger had to be inside, or be supervised, from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Tuesday, the city is enforcing a curfew of 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. (or supervised) for 15- and 16-year-olds, and 9 p.m. to 6 p.m. for 17-year-olds. Violators will be held for their parents or guardians to pick up at the precinct where they are found.

But as time has passed, and as fire statistics have dwindled from their high point, some city officials have started to publicly question whether Detroit even actually needs Angels' Night going forward. 

Detroit Firefighters took a defensive stance at an abandon dwelling fire on Kirby St. between Elmwood and McDougall St. on Detroit's near east side just after midnight in this file photo from Devil's Night Oct. 31, 2014.


As Detroit Police Commissioner the Rev. Edgar Vann said at the commission's Oct. 19 meeting: "You can raise a red flag when it’s not needed. At some point or another, we can’t do this every year for the rest of our lives. That doesn’t make sense.”

No year since 2010 has seen 100 or more fires in Detroit in the lead-up to Halloween. Four of the 21 fires reported this year were set in occupied buildings, and two of those are believed to be suspicious. Eight vacant buildings had fires, and three are considered suspicious.

Just as the city shifted the language from Devil's Night to Angels' Night, it is attempting to shift the focus from fire prevention to a celebration. Tuesday, in "at least 25" locations, at police precincts and fire houses, at rec centers and one "haunted" city park, children and families are encouraged to dress up and make the most of the day.

On the two-night period between Sunday and Tuesday, Detroit firefighters battled 38 blazes; last year that number was 41 for the two-night count. 

Of the 21 fires Monday, 13 were houses or garages that were set ablaze. The others "were primarily trash or car fires," a release from the city said.