A city in flames: inside one fire company’s war with arson

For eight long years, the firefighters of Highland Park, Michigan, worked out of a warehouse. There was no red-bricked facade, no lanky Dalmatian. No freshly washed engines gleaming in the sun. No second-floor fire pole to descend in the dead of night to wailing sirens. Whatever idealized vision you have of firefighting, Highland Park is not it. Instead, picture a hulking, boxy building on the edge of an industrial park about six miles north of Detroit. A small metal sign points the way, light blue with “Fire Dept” stenciled in all-caps white, the previous tenant’s name erased with spray paint. There’s a parking lot strewn with detritus (including a vagabond shopping cart) and beyond that train tracks and Interstate 75, the…

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