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Flint is on Fire.
April 3, 2010 1:28 PM   Subscribe

In case anyone still cares: Flint, Michigan is on Fire.

previously
deleted self link, earlier today
posted by idiopath (78 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Does anyone have time-stamped data for the google maps info
here?
posted by codacorolla at 1:32 PM on April 3, 2010


Funny how the fires seem to cluster at the intersections of, or run along side of, the major roads.
posted by orthogonality at 1:36 PM on April 3, 2010


Flint seems ironic
posted by found missing at 1:37 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Newly ironic comment in a thread from '08
posted by delmoi at 1:43 PM on April 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


You guys ever see Roger & Me? Michael Moore's first big film, and in my opinion, still his best. It's about Flint, and about how a city goes down the toilet when the main employer(s) pick up and go. It's a somber study of a depleted city in an indefinite depression, and I'm very, very sorry to hear about this.
posted by mreleganza at 1:43 PM on April 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fires seem to coincide with massive layoffs.

At least two people are insinuating it's not a coincidence:

[Flint's mayor] said investigators believe the fires have been set in routine pattern out to achieve a "perverted political purpose."

Public Safety Director Alvern Lock said investigators are talking to someone in connection with the fires, but wouldn't say if the person is a suspect. State and federal officials are assisting the investigation, he said.

"I think it's someone that has knowledge of what they're doing, and I'll leave it at that," Lock said to members of the media today. "You can read between the lines."

posted by availablelight at 1:44 PM on April 3, 2010


Oh great, just what Flint needs. Please tell me that at least the happiest place on Earth, Autoworld, hasn't been affected.
posted by scrowdid at 1:45 PM on April 3, 2010


It's spelled "Michigan" or sometimes Meeechigan (if you're talking about UM football)... but never "Michegan".

This FPP needs some context, data, something...

How many fires compared to a similar period last year? How is the fact there is a state wide burning ban due to dry weather impacting on this? Is there any proof that the fires are being set as a result of the layoffs?
posted by HuronBob at 1:45 PM on April 3, 2010


Flint seems ironic

Not as much as Match, Tennessee, Arson, North Carolina or Holymothercockwe'reinflames, California.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 1:45 PM on April 3, 2010 [10 favorites]


or, what everyone else said as I was typing!
posted by HuronBob at 1:46 PM on April 3, 2010


Just talked to my friend in Ann Arbor, MI - not so far away. She had heard nothing of this.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:46 PM on April 3, 2010


The drive from Manitoba to Southern Ontario, our routine summer vacation path when I was a kid (the 70s) and GM was in its glory (though looking back it was in full decline by then), always took us through St. Cloud and Flint. The place was a magnificence of billboards and highway stops. I think it's where, on a fuel stop, my Dad bought me a little open-wheel racer, which I broommed around with on the back window deck (remember those?) of our '75 Pontiac Catalina (4 door, 4 barrell, red with a white soft top).

Driving through cities like Flint was, for a Canadian kid, like driving through wonderland. Now I wonder if Jean Baudrilliard's thesis that "Disneyland is a perfect model of all the entangled orders of simulation" (Simulations), while the real America, the rest of it (Canada too?), is the real theme park, isn't more cogent than ever.

Maybe Flint isn't so much ironic as it is barometric.
posted by kneecapped at 1:54 PM on April 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


The mayor is just freeing the town from the tyranny of socialized firefighting. The invisible hand of the free market will be along any day now to take care of things.
posted by EarBucket at 1:55 PM on April 3, 2010 [93 favorites]


Firemen are a privilege, not a right.
posted by scrowdid at 1:57 PM on April 3, 2010 [16 favorites]


.
posted by fixedgear at 1:57 PM on April 3, 2010


If anyone still cares, I just looked north to Flint (about 25 miles away) and didn't see any smoke... and, it's been raining there the past couple of hours, so, I suspect we can all relax a bit.
posted by HuronBob at 1:59 PM on April 3, 2010


"I think it's someone that has knowledge of what they're doing, and I'll leave it at that," Lock said to members of the media today. "You can read between the lines."

Yeah... Seems obvious that there's a high probability the perp is a disgruntled, laid off firefighter.
posted by delmoi at 2:04 PM on April 3, 2010


I think this post overstates the scope of the fires. The city isn't burning; it's not 1871 Chicago. From what I can tell, someone(s) is setting fire to vacant houses as a reaction to the termination of 23 firefighters by the council/mayor. And I also live in Ann Arbor and had heard nothing of this until this FPP. Then again, I avoid local TV news like the plague.
posted by axiom at 2:07 PM on April 3, 2010


The mayor is just freeing the town from the tyranny of socialized firefighting. The invisible hand of the free market will be along any day now to take care of things.

So, this guy gets pissed he's laid off, and decides to "prove" that his services were "necessary".... and you bought it, hook, line, and sinker. You're all pissed off at the mayor for trying to balance his budget, instead of the guy deliberately setting fires.

He wins, you lose.
posted by Malor at 2:09 PM on April 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


Flint, Michigan needs a new beginning. It's too bad a geographical area can't just pack up, and move somewhere better.
posted by Skygazer at 2:09 PM on April 3, 2010


this guy gets pissed he's laid off,

Which guy is this...? Oh, the hypothetical guy the mayor invented to explain these fires!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:10 PM on April 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


posted by found missing Flint seems ironic

See also: Weed Pot Bust.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:11 PM on April 3, 2010


He wins, you lose.

unless it is the mayor setting the fires in order to gain sympathy by creating animosity towards the laid-off firefighters supposedly setting the fires
posted by found missing at 2:11 PM on April 3, 2010 [9 favorites]


unless it is the mayor setting the fires in order to gain sympathy by creating animosity towards the laid-off firefighters supposedly setting the fires

If only a stoner, his talking dog, and his three friends could drive up in a van to investigate! Zoinks!
posted by orthogonality at 2:14 PM on April 3, 2010 [33 favorites]


"If only a stoner, his talking dog, and his three friends could drive up in a van to investigate! Zoinks!"

sheesh, everyone KNOWS this only happens if the Mayor is also wearing a mask and pretending to be a ghost when he's lighting the fires.....
posted by HuronBob at 2:21 PM on April 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


And he would've gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids!
posted by lilac girl at 2:24 PM on April 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


sheesh, everyone KNOWS this only happens if the Mayor is also wearing a mask and pretending to be a ghost when he's lighting the fires.....

Golly HuronBob! You're right! There's no way this "fire demon from hell" can be real! What would a supernatural entity need with these cans of gas? There's got to be a reasonable explanation for this.
posted by fuq at 2:25 PM on April 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Everybody knows that when investigating an arson, the most important factor to look for in a suspect is whether their guilt would confirm our own ideological biases. They should just round up everyone in town and interview them about how they feel about privatizing public services, the labor theory of value and the Dreyfus Affair - that's certain to root out the guilty party.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:27 PM on April 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


ruh-roh
posted by found missing at 2:29 PM on April 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


Funny how the fires seem to cluster at the intersections of, or run along side of, the major roads.

Yeah, I noticed that too. Backing off the Google Maps link in the FPP, the locations look a little less random than one would expect if vacant houses are spontaneously catching fire. My first thought was, "Oh, someone's cruising out in different directions along major roads from some location around Grand Traverse and W. Kearsley, moving a few blocks off the main drag and finding a target." No that I'm any sort of expert at this, but it seems fishy enough that I wouldn't be surprised if it came out that a few people had conspired to do this.
posted by Avelwood at 2:30 PM on April 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


A conspiracy...or one pyromaniac who has had an erection ever since it was announce that the police and fire department are going out of business.

Also, when the shit went down next door the house two doors down (not the shooters) burned because the fire department couldn't get in to deal with it. Mine would have likely gone up as well had it not been for the fact that my roof vents are in the front and back and not on the sides.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:46 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


As somebody who lives in Saginaw, has a cousin who is one of the newly laid off firefighters and whose husband was a medic in Flint for years, I'm trying to think of something clever or insightful to say. I can't think of anything except that this is what happens after years of nobody giving a shit about you or your city. I guess now they've just given up.
posted by MaritaCov at 2:54 PM on April 3, 2010 [13 favorites]


Velma will get a brainstorm and figure it all out.
posted by telstar at 3:05 PM on April 3, 2010


And as for media coverage, they've been covering MSU in the Final Four for 10 minutes. And this is the local Flint news. Yup, nobody cares.
posted by MaritaCov at 3:07 PM on April 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nobody except the people making Scooby Doo jokes about it. What a sad situation.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 3:12 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't get the online streams of Flint Police Dispatch to work. It's possible that my volume is turned way down, but I think it's more likely the online streams just aren't working, so I'll probably just leave it.
posted by ankurd at 3:18 PM on April 3, 2010


ankurd: "I can't get the online streams of Flint Police Dispatch to work."

I am getting audio... it is sparse though (lots of dead air, which is actually good news).
posted by idiopath at 3:31 PM on April 3, 2010


Man, Flint just can't ever catch a break.
posted by nola at 3:36 PM on April 3, 2010


Why do I have the imagery of the window with that angry councilman from SimCity 2000 popping up?

YOU CAN'T CUT FUNDING FOR THE FIRE DEPARTMENT! YOU WILL REGRET THIS!
posted by slater at 3:44 PM on April 3, 2010 [19 favorites]


Don't you want to know how we keep starting fires?
posted by LSK at 3:55 PM on April 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


One major reason behind the fires are people taking down vacant / foreclosed houses that have become nuisance properties.
posted by stratastar at 4:04 PM on April 3, 2010


That 'paxtonland' site makes SiteAdvisor go all RED ALERT! for some reason. "Use with extreme caution," it says.

*shrug*
posted by Sys Rq at 4:05 PM on April 3, 2010


paxtonland.com

McAfee TrustedSource web reputation analysis found potential security risks with this site. Use with extreme caution.
posted by fixedgear at 4:11 PM on April 3, 2010


Don't you want to know how we keep starting fires?
posted by LSK at 3:55 PM on April 3
posted by infini at 4:14 PM on April 3, 2010


Last time I saw gman he was heading west in juggalo makeup with a can of gasoline. It probably took him the last few months just to get through the border crossing.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 4:22 PM on April 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


I blame Bear Grylls; he's always trying to make a spark off Flint.
posted by bwg at 4:37 PM on April 3, 2010


Funny how the fires seem to cluster at the intersections of, or run along side of, the major roads.

That could just be an artifact of how fire locations are reported, by citing the nearest major intersection.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:55 PM on April 3, 2010


Just as a warning, there are some pretty graphic photos from Haiti near the bottom of that site.
posted by dirigibleman at 5:09 PM on April 3, 2010


slater I definitely thought of Sim City 2000. Many a city of mine were eventually destroyed when the fires got out of control and I didn't have enough money for more fire departments..
posted by amethysts at 5:11 PM on April 3, 2010


Wasn't there actually a scenario in one version of SimCity where you had to take over Flint and turn it back into a prosperous city? I remember it being really hard.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 5:42 PM on April 3, 2010


You know, I knew a somewhat-famous composer who died recently. She had a decent house upstate. There were leaks in the roof. People would even have helped her to fix them. They were not fixed. The top floor became uninhabitable. Eventually the whole house was condemned. Everyone lost.

It's a sad thing when an entire country acts like an aging alcoholic loner...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:03 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


That could just be an artifact of how fire locations are reported, by citing the nearest major intersection.

Most of them are street addresses.

or one pyromaniac who has had an erection ever since it was announce that the police and fire department are going out of business.

And of course, the surprising numbers of firefighter arsonists.
posted by dhartung at 6:34 PM on April 3, 2010


My mother is from Flint. I joke that I have 'kin' in Flint, and 'family' in Kalamazoo. The economy has been a shambles since I was in elementary school (in Kalamazoo, thank god). I remember going to Six Flags Autoworld when it first opened, and seeing my first IMAX movie there. It was awesome.

When my grandmother died, my mother wanted to sell the family house, but my aunt refused. The house, in the early 80s, was valued around $80k. The value of the house, roughly 5 or 6 years later, was around $10k. The city just fell apart, and it's been so bad for so long, a joke to everyone outside it for so long, I can't imagine it recovering. The city is dying, but it's been dying for so long that among people who are even paying attention, it's just a joke.

Last I knew, they still have Nathan's. Good Coney dogs go a long way to making despair taste better.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:36 PM on April 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Flint was our Nearest Big City when I was growing up in a small town south of there. It was the mall, the exciting big six-plex theater that eventually opened up east of town, the roller rink. Mostly the mall. It was GM Truck & Bus, where Ben Hamper who did the Sunday night punk rock show on the public radio station worked. It was all-ages shows at the Ukranian Hall. For awhile, it was the community college where I taught writing. Once I had kids, it was Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad. The whole time, it was slowly getting sadder and sadder. It turns out it is possible to love a place that was always ugly and depressed, where a really mediocre mall was the best thing it had to offer. This makes me very sad.
posted by not that girl at 6:41 PM on April 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


3 or so years ago I worked for the Flint Journal and I remember there being an inordinate number of fires there compared to other news coverage areas I've worked in. Seems like once a week (or perhaps a little less than that) there was a fully engulfed house fire.
posted by msbrauer at 6:48 PM on April 3, 2010


It turns out it is possible to love a place that was always ugly and depressed, where a really mediocre mall was the best thing it had to offer.

That's one of things that really struck me about my short time in Flint. I was just passing through, but so many of the people who lived there and had some heritage in the city had this unquenchable hope and optimism. "This is going to be Flint's year" was the refrain. The year I was there, there were two great hopes. One was the American Idol finalist Lakesha Jones, who had some family in the city. She showed up for a couple of appearances, and that was about it. The other was Semi-Pro being filmed there and all the business and rejuvenation that movie would bring. The film crews were there for about a week, and it was really exciting. People were earnestly talking about re-opening some old bars, renovating that beautiful old theatre, restoring Saginaw St. to it's former glory with new businesses and lofts and whatnot. Then all of that died down slowly, and life continued on as it had been.
posted by msbrauer at 6:56 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


@sysreq and fixed gear: not doing anything shady there. Thanks for the heads up I'll make sure nothing is going on at the host level.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 7:21 PM on April 3, 2010


In the early 1980s, Boston became the arson capital of America when a group of sparkies, firefighters and dispatchers set more than 200 fires as a way of drumming up support for more resources for firefighting.
posted by adamg at 7:54 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Regardless of whether it's on the Flint local news, it's unsurprising that it's not on the Ann Arbor local news. Ann Arbor local news (which is basically Detroit local news) consists of: (1) shock pieces about how awful Detroit is; (2) shock pieces about how awful Toledo is; (3) stories about crime in Ypsilanti, Jackson, Adrian, and Monroe; (3) coverage of nothing north of Lansing; (4) coverage of nothing in Ann Arbor except UM sports events.
posted by blucevalo at 9:33 PM on April 3, 2010


I live with several people from Michigan. Honestly, from everything they have told me, Michigan seems to be the eighth circle of hell.
posted by koeselitz at 10:21 PM on April 3, 2010


adamg - that was only one of the causes of the arsons. Many of them were mob-related with the intent of running an insurance scam, or of driving out rent-controlled tenets in order to sell buildings to developers for higher costs than otherwise possible. Media constructs of arsonists as disaffected teens are extraordinarily inaccurate. These things are very frequently calculated and carried out by those with something to gain.
posted by allen.spaulding at 11:06 PM on April 3, 2010


I live with several people from Michigan. Honestly, from everything they have told me, Michigan seems to be the eighth circle of hell.

Detroit is, definitely. Ann Arbor is more like Yuppie Hell, which I think I recall Dante describing as having very high property taxes, insufficient access to qualified nannies, and something less than 4 Starbucks per city block. Oh, and Zingerman's runs out of smoked salmon with alarming frequency.

Flint kind of sucks, too.
posted by motown missile at 1:27 AM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


So Flint is America's joke city, is that it?
posted by turgid dahlia at 1:36 AM on April 4, 2010


Unfortunatley, it kind of is. The Wire could have been set there, honestly. It's just a bleak and run down town, and it's been that way for years, and not likely to get better soon. Faced with, essentially, a dying metropolitan area, people seem to be laughing it off because the alternative, realizing it's happening, and that no one seems to be able to stop it is just too damn bleak. At least with what's happening in Detroit, the size of the city keeps it from being swept totally under the rug, though I haven't heard a lot about Detroit in mainstream news either.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:01 AM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


So Flint is America's joke city, is that it?

Yes. America worships success, and mocks and ridicules failure. Especially if the success - or failure - involves money.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 5:44 AM on April 4, 2010


"This excerpt from John Orr's unpublished novel, Points of Origin, excerpted in Crime: Burning Ambition by D. Bacon, tells the story of an arson investigator who lights fires in his spare time. Ironically Orr, a professional firefighter with the Glendale (Calif.) Fire Department at the time, was himself subsequently convicted of arson and sentenced to 30 years in prison." - From Smoke Screen

"Ironically"?
posted by griphus at 1:18 PM on April 4, 2010


Flint is my hometown. My mother still lives there. I just spoke to her before I saw this post and she didn't mention any fires.

Flint is in a state of postindustrial decay and has been for as long as I can remember. It's not going to rebound from losing the auto industry.

For 20+ years, the city's whole purpose has been to demonstrate what happens in a one-industry town controlled by uber-capitalists, and Michael Moore has done an admirable job of that.

We Flintoids, or Flintstones, as some like to say, are all sad over our town, but most of us have moved away. I think that eventually Flint's population will stabilize at small town levels, and over time the derelict buildings will be replaced by wilderness, farmland, or parks. It's going to take a while. I think Detroit is also moving in that direction.

Michigan is beautiful -- lots of trees, nature, and lakes. It's a great place for recreation and agriculture. And one thing you never hear about in the media is the fact that, despite the violence and poverty that does exist in Flint, there is also a spirit of mutual aid and neighborliness that exists alongside it.

It's not a joke, and neither are the people who live there. Some are trapped, sure, but others are staying to make it a better place in whatever way they can. And it still has more decent neighborhoods than it does abandoned ones.
posted by xenophile at 1:59 PM on April 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


@ Xenophile- best post about this situation I've read yet, anywhere on teh interwebs...... Thank you.
posted by peewinkle at 6:00 PM on April 4, 2010


I just had a Sim City 3000 flashback.
posted by limnrix at 8:38 PM on April 4, 2010


For 20+ years, the city's whole purpose has been to demonstrate what happens in a one-industry town controlled by uber-capitalists, and Michael Moore has done an admirable job of that.

It's been really depressing seeing how Michael Moore has been demonized by the conservatives and rejected by a lot of blue collar workers. Because for the most part, he's always been on their side.

I grew up in Saginaw, Michigan, and I saw first hand the Roger and Me story. So many family members and friends laid off after dedicating their lives to a company. I'm optimistic that a lot of kids growing up now learned something from it, but greed and short-term riches are powerful forces that are hard to turn away.

But back to the story, hopefully with federal help the city will track down those responsible and rebuild. Maybe replace the empty lots with some community gardens or parks.
posted by formless at 9:47 PM on April 4, 2010


>> Yes. America worships success, and mocks and ridicules failure. Especially if the success - or failure - involves money.

This is America. What other kind of success is there?
posted by davelog at 9:55 PM on April 4, 2010


Like Xenophile, Flint is also my hometown. I still have a lot of family that lives in Flint and the immediate outskirts of Flint. Some of them are among those who you say are trying to make it a better place. A large number of residents believed that the new mayor they elected was going to be the Obama of Flint. Change is going to come, etc. etc. Who knew it would turn out to be a change for the worse. Well, most of them didn't at any rate.

I've been reading a lot of Facebook postings from one of my Aunts in particular about another fire here, another fire there. I saw her yesterday for Easter brunch and asked about the fires. I wanted to know if someone was just setting fires to anything and everything or if they were targeted places. She said that whoever is doing this is only burning down abandoned buildings. She said the *really* unfortunate part is that this person has burned down at least two places slated to get federal dollars for the purposes of restoration and preservation and make them Historic Homes. She said the arsonist (or arsonists) didn't know that ahead of time. The reason she knows is because of the role she plays in the community. I guess at this point you could make a joke about is there anything worth preserving in Flint, but to me, hearing all of this makes me rather sad.
posted by mrzer0 at 6:00 AM on April 5, 2010


I was up in Saginaw over the weekend, and every friend/family member I talked to asked me about this -- they had no idea where it was happening, but folks were already making jokes about it happening locally if they also let their police and fire services get cut. I could confirm that it wasn't Ann Arbor or Detroit, since there's no way I wouldn't have heard about that...

...which led everyone to conclude that it had to be Flint, because nobody would care enough to mention that, even in Saginaw.

I guess some of us have heard "x is dying" as long as we've been alive, and we've just become used to thinking of these places as already dead... but those places would include at least half the cities in the state at this point.
posted by Pufferish at 6:52 AM on April 5, 2010


I'm from Pittsburgh, and with the death of the steel industry there, in the seventies, eighties and early nineties, people talked about the Rust Belt and how Pittsburgh was going to go tits up at any time.

I lived there in '97 when the last mill, the LTV was closed. Even then, they began developing the riverfront. Now, Pittsburgh thrives, with high tech firms, in addition to coal, steel, glass and aluminum.

It takes vision and faith to bring a city back from the brink, but you can actually live in Pittsburgh and be happy.

What you have to be willing to do is drop back ten yards and punt. Okay, we accept the fact that steel is produced more inexpensively in eastern Europe, what else can we do? High Tech? Pharmaceuticals? Sporting Goods? Fine, lets do that.

So what businesses are in Pittsburgh? US Steel, Alcoa, PPG, Bayer, Dicks Sporting Goods, GNC, Westinghouse, and those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

So head on down to The Strip, have a Primanti's sandwich (knockwurst is my favorite, followed by jumbo balogna) and knock back an Iron City.

As for Flint, I wish I knew.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:09 AM on April 5, 2010


Ref ruthless bunny's comment

And just three years or so later, there were small groups supporting and enabling startups in hi tech, bio sciences, robotics and IT related stuff emerging from the universities that gathered around the Cathedral of Learning. Nothing like a Honey Brown at now demolished corner pub (was it the Mardi Gras opposite Doc's on Walnut and Bellefonte?)
posted by infini at 8:24 AM on April 5, 2010


Flint firefighters, residents grow weary of fires
posted by various at 2:00 PM on April 5, 2010


I was really hoping that the link would be to a cheesy 1970's era community boosterism film with the title Flint is on Fire! Alas, like much else I've read today, the reality is much sadder.
posted by Fezboy! at 2:36 PM on April 5, 2010


Wow, I wish that we had that many structure fires in our district. All we get are car wrecks, grass fires, and yesterday's excitement - a smoldering pile of trash.
posted by drstein at 2:58 PM on April 5, 2010


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