FLINT (WWJ/AP)– Three firefighters suffered heat exhaustion while battling a string of 11 fires at vacant homes on Flint’s east side early Tuesday that may have been intentionally set, authorities said.
The first fire started about 12:30 a.m., and they all took place in the same area, Battalion Chief John Babb told The Flint Journal. The fires are being investigated as possible arson, WEYI-TV reported, and are near where a number of arsons happened in March 2010.
“It was total chaos,” Babb said. “They were circling us. They would set one fire and then another.”
One of the firefighters with heat exhaustion was in stable condition at a hospital. The other two were able to return to work, Babb said.
Several occupied homes were damaged by the heat, Babb said. Crews from neighboring communities also helped fight the fires.
Last year, the battered industrial city laid off dozens of firefighters to help close a budget deficit. The cuts were accompanied by a wave of arsons, many in abandoned homes. A federal grant later allowed 34 laid-off firefighters to return to work and two fire stations to be reopened.
“These times, now, people or desperate. Or, I don’t know if it’s kids playing or whatever, but our arsons have been going up lately,” Assistant Flint Fire Chief Raymond Barton told WWJ Newsradio 950.
Officials are seeking tips from the public about the latest blazes at 1-800-44ARSON.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.