updated 11/1/2006 1:35:25 PM ET 2006-11-01T18:35:25

Sixteen houses, most of them vacant, burned during a pre-Halloween arson spree on what is known as Devil’s Night, officials said.

Widespread arson fires on the night before Halloween, dubbed Devil’s Night, started years ago in Detroit. Saginaw, a city of about 60,000 residents, later began seeing copycat arsons.

At least five of the 16 fires this year were rekindles — symptomatic of a fire department understaffed to deal with the high volume of fires, fire Battalion Chief Donald Coleman said. Fire officials said almost all the blazes are likely to prove to be arson.

Resident Felicia Hooker said arson isn’t a just a Devil’s Night problem in Saginaw, which has been struggling with violence.

“Every night, a house goes up in flames around here,” she said.

The 2000 U.S. Census found 28.5 percent of the city’s population was living below the poverty line, well over the state average of 10.5 percent.

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