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1988 Press Photo Detroit neighbor, plague of house fire

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Caption: Mary Gaston stands Tuesday in her Detroit neighborhood, which has been plagued with house fires.Fires fan fear into neighbors' hearts13 blazes reported in the last two weeksBY MARGARET TRIMERFree Press Staff WriterEvery night before she goes to sleep, Mary Gaston stashes a housecoat and purse near her front door and prays she won't have to flee a fire."Sometimes it feels like I'm living in hell," said Gaston, 54, with tears flowing as she talked Tuesday about the 13 fires in two weeks that have destroyed abandoned homes on her north Detroit street.Gaston lives in the 19300 block of Carman, between two empty houses, one vacant, the other abandoned."Every time I hear that crackling and popping and those sirens I jump up and think, 'Oh God, this time it's my house," she said.Monday night firefighters from the 8th Battalion doused another blaze on Carman, near Woodward and Seven Mile. The house was the fifth in a row to burn since the Fourth of July, leaving almost half a block in rubble. "I opened my door and the heat just about knocked me out," said Gaston, who has lived in her house for 26 years. "This is just a disaster zone and it has me so broken down and tired. I just don't know what to do."Firefighters at the 8th Battalion, one of the city's busiest units, said fire reports in the area have doubled so far in July compared to a year ago, up from 15 to about 30 a day."You'd think it was World War III," said one Fire Department sergeant, speaking on condition his name was not used. "I've never seen it his bad."The sergeant and other fire fighters said blazes are up across the city, due in part to the dry weather, but also to unsupervised children using fireworks near vacant and deteriorating houses."It's all over like this. But I'd be especially ashamed to bring anyone from out of town into this area," said the 8th Battalion sergeant. "People just don't care for the homes."But Gaston and some of her neighbors refuse to give up."What else can we do?" said Amal Kinaya, 45, another neighborhood resident. "It's very, very ugly. Every day there's five or six fire trucks around here. But I can't move; I don't have money to just pick up and move.".

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