DETROIT (WWJ) – Record low fire count, one arson arrest and thousands of volunteers equal a successful weekend preceding Halloween for the city of Detroit.
A major turn-around for a city which tallied over 800 fires in the days preceding Halloween in the ’80s.
An emphasis on cutting that number began decades ago and the momentum has built in the city with thousands of volunteers working to patrol the streets during the days before the spirited holiday.
Among the volunteers for Angel’s Night were a group of two dozen Cody High School students.
They are training, while in high school, to become firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
Seventeen-year-old Jordan Lewis was shadowing firefighters as part of the program.
“There is no other opportunity in the city that allows teens, such as myself and others, to go out with the firefighters – to get that experience, to get that training, ahead of time, ahead of schedule, and to come out of high school prepared – to go right into the fire service,” said Lewis.
Students say the physical aspect of the job is challenging.
“It’s so much more physically taxing than just running the football down the field,” said Lewis.
“It’s my city, it’s the city I grew up in – so it really hits home for me to be able to walk around my city and to be able to volunteer and give my services to my city,” says 16-year-old Nobels. “There aren’t many opportunities like this that come around and I thought, because I don’t come from the most wealthiest family, but I have a nice home, but it’s something else to have a backup plan. Just something else that I can say I have the ability to do.”
When they graduate from high school, they’ll have required certification to work as firefighters and/or EMTs.
The Angel’s Night initiatives have been so successful in Detroit that Mayor Mike Duggan is looking toward a shift in focus on Halloween activities the kids in the city.
“Wouldn’t it be great to stop talking about fires and start talking about kids?” asked Duggan. “Does it feel like we are almost there?” he asked volunteers.
Executive Fire Commissioner Eric Jones wants to remain vigilant: “That’s been my message throughout the three days and throughout my career is to remain vigilant – I don’t want to prematurely stop the operation.”
Angel’s Night volunteer Debra Bevell doesn’t see it coming to an end. “I don’t think this will come to an end because I think people will always want to volunteer to keep our city safe.”
Fire counts the same as an average night in Detroit. According to city records:
14 total fires during Day 1 of Angel’s Night patrols, down from 17 last year; 7 fires were of structures, only one of them vacant.
That number compares to 17 reported during the first 24 hours of last year’s campaign, which ended up being the quietest of the 20-year history of the Angel’s Night patrol with 52 total fires.
In the 1980s, the city experienced hundreds of arsons during the pre-Halloween period, with more than 800 in 1984.