Tens of thousands of volunteers once again helped keep Detroit from burning out of control on “Angels’ Night” last week, but some local officials say there needs to be more help to prevent arson fires year-round, reports the Detroit Free Press. Last year, Detroit had 6,625 fires that were classified as suspicious, meaning investigators initially believed the blazes were set or that there was no obvious cause such as an electrical source. That is an average of about 18 suspicious fires each day.
“Whether it’s night or day, this city is burning,” said a member of the Fire Department’s arson unit. “This is out of control. If it was in Vegas, they’d have a task force. There’d be FBI, ATF, every city, state, county (involved).” Lori Conarton of the Michigan Arson Prevention Committee, a group of insurance industry representatives, fire and law enforcement officials, and corporate members, said the cost of suspicious fires in Detroit spreads well beyond the city’s borders. The group sponsors an anonymous tip line — 800-44ARSON (442-7766) — that pays up to $5,000 for information on arson fires. Her group and fire officials are worried because Michigan’s unemployment and foreclosure problems have resulted in a dramatic increase in vacant homes — more potential targets for arsonists. “If the building is vacant and uninsured, that’s still costing people through tax dollars,” she said. “Arson is a costly crime.”