The Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) in Kansas joins the United States Fire Administration (USFA) in dedicating the week of May 3-9 as Arson Awareness Week. Governor Sam Brownback signed a Proclamation recognizing this week as Arson Awareness Week in Kansas for the purpose of increasing awareness and understanding of one of the most dangerous and costly threats to people and property – arson.
The theme for this year’s Arson Awareness Week is “Accelerant Detection Canines — Sniffing Out Arson.” An accelerant detection canine, such as the dogs used by the Office of the State Fire Marshal and a few larger fire departments in Kansas, saves time and money during arson investigations. When an arson dog is used as part of an investigation, there are fewer but more accurate evidence samples, which reduce expenditures at the lab and, ultimately, speed up investigations and provide a higher conviction rate.
According to the USFA, during 2010-2012, an estimated 17,400 intentionally set fires in residential buildings were reported to U.S. fire departments each year, resulting in 275 civilian deaths, 800 civilian injuries, and $513 million in property loss. For this same time period, an estimated 9,000 intentionally set fires occurred in nonresidential buildings each year resulting in $282 million in property loss.
In Kansas, from 2010-2014, there were 6,550 “intentional” fires, including a significant number of grass fires, resulting in 13 civilian fatalities, 55 civilian injuries, 38 fire service injuries, and $38 million total property loss.
Arson is defined as the malicious burning of another’s occupied home or property. This type of illegal activity robs communities of valuable assets, lives and property. It can devastate a community, resulting in the decline of the neighborhood through increased insurance premiums, loss of business revenue and a decrease in property values.
What are some of the motivating factors associated with arson?
· Curiosity - A misuse of fire that is most often associated with juveniles.
· Vandalism – Malicious mischief that may be associated with boredom, peer pressure, or even gang activity.
· Concealing another Crime – Misuse of fire used to mask another crime such as burglary, larceny or murder.
· Excitement – Most of these fires are nuisance fires but can escalate to home fires.
· Revenge – The setting of a fire in retaliation for an actual or perceived injustice.
· Insurance Fraud/Arson for Profit – A criminal method of obtaining money from a fire loss policy.
To reduce the opportunity for arson in your neighborhood, citizens are encouraged to illuminate the exterior and entrances of their homes, clear obstructions such as bushes or shrubbery, keep doors and windows locked, clean around the home including raking leaves and removing trash, as well as securing abandoned and vacant homes. For more arson prevention tips, visit the OSFM website: FireMarshal.ks.gov.