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Fire Destroys Yet Another House At Detroit's Heidelberg Project, Person Of Interest In Custody

DETROIT (WWJ) - For the sixth time in recent months, a suspicious fire strikes Detroit's Heidelberg Project, and arson investigators might have the person responsible in custody.

The fire, which started early Thursday morning, has completely destroyed the Penny House, on Mt Elliot and Heidelberg streets on the city's east side.

Officials say a citizen patrolling the area noticed the fire around 3 a.m. and immediately called 911.

Despite a quick response, firefighters were unable to contain the fire as they dealt with low water pressure. The building is a complete loss.

Shortly after the fire was extinguished, arson investigators confirmed they have a person of interest in custody.

Penny House
(Credit: Bill Szumanski/WWJ Newsradio 950)

Tyree Guyton, who created the Heidelberg Project in 1986, was on the scene, surveying the remains. He told WWJ's Mike Campbell he needs to process things in his head before making a public statement.

The fire at the Penny House is the second in less than 10 days and the sixth this year to hit the block-long stretch of artwork. On Nov. 12, fire completely ravaged the House of Soul, which was covered in hundreds of old vinyl albums.

In May, the Obstruction of Justice House was heavily damaged by fire, leaving behind just a pile of rubble. Then, in early October, fire consumed what remained of the OJ House. Two other small fires were also reported earlier in October, which caused smoke damage to the Penny House and the Numbers House.

Arson is suspected in all of the fires at the project. However, no arrests have been made. Investigators say it's not yet clear if the person in custody is responsible for all of the fires or just the most recent one.

After the devastating fire at the House of Soul, organizers announced a plan for heightened security, including nightly neighborhood patrols. They also planned to improve lighting in the area and eventually place security cameras throughout the project.

The Heidelberg Project is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike, and has also been featured in numerous Hollywood films and TV shows. Guyton has described the project as an open-air art environment where discarded objects are used to create a two-block area full of color, symbolism and intrigue.

penny house fb
The Penny House before a fire (Credit: Heidelberg Project/Facebook)
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