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Devil's Night Brings Fires but Plan to Fight Arson Seems to Be Effective

October 31, 1987|United Press International

DETROIT — Scattered fires broke out Friday evening on Detroit's notorious Devil's Night, but officials hoped a dusk-to-dawn curfew for young people, heightened citizen awareness and beefed-up patrols were helping to prevent an arson spree.

One of the first significant blazes of the day broke out at 3:30 p.m. in an abandoned warehouse. Later in the evening, a number of homes caught fire in a chain-reaction blaze, but the fires were brought under control and there apparently were no injuries.

There were scattered reports of fires in trash dumpsters and garages but officials said it appeared that measures taken to combat the dangerous celebration were working.

Curfew Violations Down

Police reported 116 curfew violations as of 9 p.m., down from 178 at the same time last year on Devil's Night. A Detroit police spokesman said traffic on police radio channels did not seem especially heavy, and a lieutenant at one fire station described the situation as "very quiet."

Devil's Night is the night before Halloween but arson has traditionally been a problem both the night before and the night after the holiday, prompting city officials to impose a strict three-day curfew for people under 18.

City statistics indicate that 386 fires were set last year during the three-day Devil's Night period. The record is 810 in 1984, and the normal 24-hour average is 65.

Earlier this week, Mayor Coleman Young outlined a comprehensive arson-fighting plan intended to cut the number of fires for the third consecutive year.

Police Patrols Increased

The effort also includes increased patrols by police and firefighters and enlistment of block clubs and other groups to watch their neighborhoods, especially those with large numbers of abandoned buildings.

City officials also distributed about 250,000 brochures in high-risk neighborhoods asking residents not to throw out burnable trash in the last three days of October and to see that any trash left outside is soaked down daily with water.

About 10,000 citizen volunteers, some of them with citizens band radios or portable telephones, were supplementing city patrols.

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