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Arrest made in Detroit fires

DETROIT, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Detroit Mayor Dave Bing compared the outbreak of dozens of fires to a natural disaster Wednesday in defending the city's response to the emergencies.

Response times were slower than normal Tuesday because there were 85 blazes and dozens of downed power lines in a 4-hour span. The city's fire department deals with only 35 calls a day on average.

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"You can never have enough resources -- you can do all the planning in the world but when something of this magnitude hits any city, any area, you just have to respond," the Detroit Free Press quoted Bing as telling reporters at an afternoon news conference.

"Even though there are a lot of people who are naysayers who may say 'You don't have enough equipment, you don't have enough people,' I just don't think for a natural disaster, which is really what this was, I don't think you can appropriately plan for that."

A total of 236 city firefighters worked the blazes and firefighters from several neighboring communities were called in to help, something Detroit Fire Commissioner James Mack said he could have done sooner, in retrospect. It was the first time outside help was sought since the 1967 riot, the Free Press said.

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Fire officials blamed most of the fires on downed electrical wires, but a man arrested on suspicion of car theft was suspected of setting some of them, The Detroit News reported Wednesday.

Dozens of buildings were destroyed and Red Cross volunteers were helping people burned out of their homes, police said.

No fatalities or serious injuries were reported.

DTE Energy, which said up to 50,000 people were without power at one point because of winds whipping up to 50 mph, said it began its own investigation.

Because gusty winds were expected to be an issue into Wednesday, DTE spokesman Scott Simons said, it wasn't clear when power would be restored to all customers, the News reported.

"It's likely we'll be working into Thursday," he said.

About 15,000 customers were still without power Wednesday morning.

The National Weather Service said high winds, combined with a lack of rain and other factors, created "explosive fire growth potential."

The winds that whipped the flames accompanied a cold front crossing the region, NWS meteorologist Steve Considine told the News. Fires spread as temperatures pushed into the mid-80s in areas that have seen less than 1 inch of rain so far in September.

"We had a hot dry air mass that moved in (Tuesday), and the humidity was really low," Considine said.

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