Devil's Night fires left at least six families homeless despite the efforts of 30,000 volunteer and city workers to curb the annual pre-Halloween arson spree.
By Tuesday morning, some 315 youths had been arrested for violating the 6 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew for those under 18, which began Sunday night and ends Wednesday morning. In addition, two adults and two youths were arrested Monday night on suspicion of arson.In 1988, 229 arson fires were reported during the two nights before Halloween and Halloween night. Reported fires have declined each year since 1984, when there were 810 between Oct. 29 and 31, according to city officials.
City officials will not report the number of Devil's Night fires until after Halloween, but unofficial reports said at least six families were left homeless. Bob Berg, a spokesman for Mayor Coleman A. Young, said it was too early to tell whether this year's fire totals would exceed last year's tally.
Nine people were evacuated from their east-side duplex about 7:15 p.m. Monday, when fire spread from an abandoned house next door to their home.
"When I came out it was all big flames," said Jewel Henderson as firefighters battled the flames. "I wish today I'd never heard of Devil's Night. It's a shame. You waste all your money fixing up your house, then someone goes and burns it down. Then they go and burn down another house."
On the west side, Lorraine Riley, 58, was in bed at 7:30 p.m. when a fire spread to her home from an abandoned house next door. Riley grabbed her two dogs and ran for safety. She said it took firefighters more than an hour to respond to her call.
"I don't have nowhere to go and nothing whatsoever," she said. "Everything's in the house."
More than a dozen other suspected arsons were reported in vacant buildings and trash bins and in at least one suspected crack house by late evening. All were extinguished without injury.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp was in Detroit on Tuesday to campaign for City Council candidate Keith Butler. Kemp said he has directed his staff at the HUD field office in Detroit to help city officials come up with better ways to spend block grant money in order to ease the poverty conditions that spawn such crimes as Devil's Night arsons.
The eve of Halloween has been called Devil's Night for decades in Detroit, but for years it was a time for soaping windows, ringing doorbells and other harmless pranks until the early 1980s, when fires began erupting after dark on and around Devil's Night. Mass arson began in 1983, when 650 fires were reported on Devil's Night alone.