Detroit: Halloween period sees few fires

A carved pumpkin as seen as the City of Detroit announced their new Halloween in the D celebration in Detroit on Friday October 26, 2018. 
Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

Detroit — Devil's Night gave way to Angel's Night 23 years ago. This year, Oct. 30 was just another Thursday night.

Halloween Eve in Detroit has been known as Devil's Night and Angels' Night in recent decades, but these days city officials prefer to think of it simply as the day before Halloween. And this year in Detroit, there were fewer fires than on normal evenings in the city.

During the three-day period of Oct. 29-31, there were 16 total structure fires in the city, down from 35 structure fires during the same period last year, Detroit Fire Commissioner Eric Jones said.

"It was wonderful," Jones said Thursday. "I was at a few fire stations passing out candy, and the biggest worry was whether we'd run out of candy. We gave Halloween back to the kids."

The daily average is eight structure fires in Detroit, Jones said.

In 2017, fire totals fell so low that the city declared the end of Angels' Night, which was replaced this year by Halloween in the D.

For decades, the city has tried to get rid of the stigma surrounding Halloween Eve. In the early 1990s, pronouncements that the Devil's Night tradition of arson had ended proved premature. 

In 1994, the year after a relatively quiet Devil's Night, city officials attempted to rebrand it as "Halloween Eve." That Halloween Eve, there were 182 fires set, the highest number since 215 in 1986, and three times the 1993 total.

The Angels' Night rebranding took place in 1997, under then-Mayor Dennis Archer. The focus turned to recruiting "angels," volunteers whose patrols were intended to provide a deterrent to the firebugs who drew national attention to Detroit more than a decade earlier, when 500-plus fires torched the city in 1984.

In 1997, some 35,000 volunteers answered the call, and there were 142 fires over the three-day period including Halloween.

At a press conference on Nov. 1 last year, Charlie Beckham, then-director of the city's Department of Neighborhoods, said "we've made Detroit look good in the eyes of the world. Now it's Halloween in the D."

Mayor Mike Duggan joked that Beckham wasn't the city's marketing director. But the phrase he coined, Halloween in the D, stuck.

See the full slate of Halloween in the D events.

Rather than focus on fires, or fire prevention, officials said, the focus of Halloween in Detroit would be providing safe, wholesome options for the children of the city.

Departments of city government have been collecting Halloween candy, which will be distributed at police precincts and recreation centers throughout the 139-square mile city.

Three parks, Rouge, Chandler and Clark, will be "haunted," and a "Harvest fest" is planned for the Spirit Plaza at Woodward and Jefferson, right outside of city hall.