Halloween season takes a turn back to the 80s

By Charles Sercombe

For the first time in many years, Hamtramck firefighters were busy during the Halloween holiday.

Fire Marshal Paul Wilk said there were four arson suspected fires over the weekend, including a house fire on Sunday.

Normally, there are no fires during Halloween and the days leading up to it because of the heavy presence of volunteer patrols here and in Detroit. Hamtramck wasn’t alone in reporting an increase in fires. According to media reports, Detroit saw a 42 percent rise in fires during the Halloween weekend.

Still, the increase pales in comparison to what occurred in the 1980s when Detroit became international news for the hundreds of fires set during the night before Halloween, famously known as “Devil’s Night.”

Through a major media campaign, that night was renamed “Angel’s Night,” and a massive volunteer patrol cruised the streets to prevent further arson fires.

The plan worked like a charm, and thus ended the city’s dubious distinction of being a tourist destination spot for those looking to capture the mayhem on video.

But perhaps more disturbing than what happened this weekend is an ongoing trend in Hamtramck of more arson-suspected fires in recent weeks.

“October was bad,” Wilk said.

So what is fueling this latest trend?

Take your pick.

“The sign of the times,” Wilk said, referring to the high number of empty houses due to foreclos

The increase in fires could be homeowners desperate to collect insurance money. Or, it could be arson bugs tempted by the number of empty houses that are easy to break into. Or maybe for those without a job or a future, it’s a way to vent their frustration.

Ironically, the city recently received a major grant to renovate foreclosed homes and sell them. Will it now be a race against time?

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