A Look Back at the Firefighters Who Helped Fight Devil’s Night

Following a mid-80s peak, Detroiters seem to have beaten back the flames of Halloween-time arson

After a long-standing tradition of pranks and mild vandalism on the days leading up to Halloween, Detroiters’ fears shifted toward arson in the 1970s with the emergence of Devil’s Night.

The helmets above, one of which has the name “Bokuniewicz” etched in its metal, were worn by two Detroit firefighters in 1970 when they were combatting fires. The red color of the armor signifies the firefighter’s rank. The company number on the front indicates where the firefighter would have been stationed. Firefighters now wear helmets made of thermoplastic or fiberglass.

The first few years, the Devil’s Night blazes were mainly in the inner-city and occurred solely on the night before Halloween. But the trend escalated, and by 1984, the DFD had to respond to more than 800 fires over a three-day period.

Through efforts such as the Angel’s Night Volunteer Campaign, DFD’s officers battled just over 20 fires that were considered suspicious last year. The Detroit community continues to resist Devil’s Night, hinting that Los Angeles isn’t the only city of angels.

The helmets are part of the Detroit Historical Society’s archives. Detroit Historical Museum; 5401 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7935; detroithistorical.org