A model for assessing fire risk

Detroit suffered nearly 3,000 structure damaging fires in 2015. The human, physical, and financial cost of these fires and their destabilizing effects on Detroit's neighborhoods was tremendous:

  • 1,373 structure damaging fires in occupied homes

  • 1,238 catastrophic or major fires that will likely require demolition of the remaining structure and perhaps as much as $17 million in additional demolition funds

With stakes and costs this high, the benefits of improved fire prevention techniques could be significant. But fire in Detroit is chaotic and unpredictable — arson abounds, and with more than 50,000 vacant structures across the city, there is fuel to burn. The problem is complex.

In July 2015, LOVELAND Technologies started working with Joshua Pelletier and Demarius Chrite of the software design firm Pretty Robots LLC in an effort to identify what characteristics put residential structures in Detroit at greater risk for fires, and which Detroit properties are at highest risk. Pretty Robots used data collected in 2014's citywide property survey, Motor City Mapping, along with governmental data from the City of Detroit and Wayne County to inform their research. 

The goals were two-fold:

  • With the data available, attempt to identify what characteristics put Detroit homes at greater risk for fire.

  • Identify which properties in Detroit bear those characteristics and to what degree.

What follows is a collection of maps, data, and analysis showing where LOVELAND and Pretty Robots found at-risk properties, how the model identifying those properties was constructed, and how this might be used to inform programs and policies that can prevent fires and the massively destabilizing effects they have on Detroit.

 

MAP SHOWING the 24,819 RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES ACROSS DETROIT IDENTIFIED AS HIGH RISK BY PRETTY ROBOTS' MODEL