DETROIT — Wind-whipped flames swept through at least three Detroit neighborhoods, destroying dozens of homes, including many that were vacant, and sending waves of searing heat blocks away, officials said.
A thick odor of smoke filled the air Wednesday after the roaring fires, fanned by winds of up to 50 mph, jumped from house to house Tuesday night. No injuries were reported.
There were about 85 fires at homes and garages over a four-hour period, said Dan Lijana, spokesman for Mayor Dave Bing.
"It was a freakish day — the wind was tremendous," said City Council President Charles Pugh.
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Residents complained of a slow response by the city's emergency responders, but Pugh said the fire department did its best with the resources available.
Detroit fire Capt. Steve Varnas told the Detroit Free Press some fires may have been caused by dead tree limbs being blown onto power lines. At least one electric company launched an investigation into possible ties between the blazes and its lines.
On Detroit's northwest side, four brick bungalow and Tudor-style homes were gutted; two had only chimneys remaining. Neighbors, utility and cable workers stood outside surveying the damage, while the Red Cross counted displaced families.
"My garages were burning. It was a big fireball," said Kevin Mays, 45, whose two vacant homes suffered minor damage. His three cars and two motorcycles inside the garages were wiped out by the flames.
"It's going to be a big hole in the neighborhood," he said. "The neighborhood won't be the same."
Another resident, Estralita Jamal, said the fire gutted part of her community.
"It looks like a war zone. The whole block is just gone. It's just gone," she told WXYZ-TV.
The National Weather Service said a cold front passed through Detroit with no rain, which is unusual.
"The really dry air along with high wind — that would have been favorable for a fire to spread," meteorologist Bryan Tilley said.