Thursday, March 25, 2010

Flint Fires

Last night's spate of fires in Flint just before planned layoffs of police and fire fighters has people on edge, especially in Carriage Town and the Grand Traverse area. Residents were out patrolling the neighborhoods last night, and there are plans to board up abandoned houses today.

Bill Gainey, who owns the Hiram "Hardwood" Smith house near downtown, emailed me with an update:

Our neighborhoods are under attack. Especially Carriage Town. They seem to be targeting vacant Land Bank houses that are next to another vacant house. This is terrible. I was on patrol for the better part of last night and more of us will be patrolling tonight. This is a lesson for all of us. We should not have any houses wide open for someone to walk off the street and torch it.


  1. I don't think that's what was meant by the old saying "Keep The Home Fires Burning".

  2. I was with Bill Gainey and Ryan Eashoo last night. It's terrible that someone would burn down such beautiful homes in Carriage Town!

  3. Our family business on Grand Traverse went to the torch many years ago. I shudder to think of area neighbors who are holding on having to deal with what I am reading.

    My heart goes out to all of you.

    Bernard Rosenberg
    Edw Rosenberg & Son Wholesale Fruits & Vegetables
    413 W. Water St.
    (from the 30's to the 60's)

  4. 2 firefighters were hurt and plenty of residents are probably terrified.

    That's part of what's wrong with it. And make no mistake, what's going on is flat out wrong.

  5. I agree that Flint needs to get rid of some abandoned housing, but this isn't the way to do it. We're lucky no one died.

  6. We live near the hospital. Every siren we hear makes my wife and I jump.

  7. > I don't see why there is anything wrong with what is going on. In all honesty. <

    Attempting to excuse felonious, dangerous actions as somehow justifiable or socially beneficial is pathological.

    The United States has a democratic society with legally and socially defined behavioral limits. Whatever each of our perspectives on whether the current government is following the right path, there is no justification whatsoever, and should be no tolerance whatsoever, for an attempt to use arson to criminally coerce the government into different actions.

    The community needs to see this particular scumbag (excuse the term, but I think it applies) identified, caught, convicted and locked up for the full allowed term.

  8. The truth is that American's are violent people. It isn't enough to just TRUST that these abandoned homes will be removed in a civil mannor. The last 20 years is proff of that. It is up to the citizens to do something. I dont think fires are the answer at all. Although when it happens, it happened for a reason. The roads, police and city hall offices are no longer important. The thousands and thousands of abandonded homes are going to be a problem and a drain on Flint until they are removed. If that means burning them down as a last resort. Then the people will burn them down.

    I rather see them tore down and reuse all possible materials in a new bank. Rather then a land bank. We should be banking all valuable building materials for use when all the filth is removed and reconstruction can begin again.

  9. Rob, I'm all for your populist, can-do spirit, but these weren't citizens taking the law into their own hands for the greater good of improving Flint. These were arsonists — quite possibly out to make a political point during contract negotiations with the city — who could have killed people, including the residents of Carriage Town who have fought for years to make the city better. Don't make this into some noble cause. It's not.

  10. Most of us recognize that the pyromaniac's perspective that fires are beneficial and exciting is just a manifestation of a very dangerous and violent illness.

    Pyromania sometimes can be treated, in a secured setting. Whether that's possible or not, it has to be stopped by catching and jailing the perpetrator.

  11. These fires have really saddened me. Granted, the homes that burned the other night were (mostly) in pretty bad shape and weren't architecturally significant, and most were on the demolition list, but I didn't want to see them go down that way. Two burned yesterday in the neighborhood south of Chevy in the Hole, which completely made me angry. One was an apartment house in horrible shape, and the other an amazing, 2,000+ sq. ft. brick house on Glenwood that just needed a little work to be great again.

    I'm not that worried about my neighborhood (Mott Park), since all of these fires have been at vacant houses in underpopulated areas. What I am worried about is having all of our firefighters busy and then having a real emergency they have to take care of.

    I'm a big fan of Dayne Walling, voted for him, and still think he can do great things for us. Unfortunately, he cut too much from public safety and not enough from his own cabinet.

  12. Arson is NOT an acceptable form of behavior... EVER!! Many times, it destroys other people's property as well as the property it was intended to destroy, and is not good for the societal and insurance costs it puts forth... There MUST be a better way to protest our government's policies when we disagree with them than in this destructive and selfish way, no?

  13. My family home on the east side was one of the houses that burned. Havn't lived there in years, but still makes me sad.

  14. According to Wikipedia:

    Terrorism is the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion. At present, the International community has been unable to formulate a universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition of terrorism. Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for an ideological goal (as opposed to a lone attack), and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians).


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at