SPRINGFIELD – Each year, arson fires cause many deaths, serious injuries and millions of dollars in property damage. To help people better understand the crime of arson and what they can do to prevent it, the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is observing Arson Awareness Week during the week of May 3-9. In 2008, OSFM’s Arson Investigation Division investigated nearly 1,500 fires, of which 403 cases were determined to be incendiary.
The goal of this year’s theme, “Arson for Profit,” is to focus public on the subject. By drawing people’s at¬tention to the alarming statistics about arson for profit, State Fire Marshal David B. Foreman hopes to expand resources and support neces¬sary to reduce this crime. Arson for profit, or economic arson, is when businesses or individuals set fires to reduce financial loss, recoup initial investments, or dispose of depreciated assets usually for a payout from insurance companies.
“Arson for profit is not only illegal, but it’s dangerous. Fires can spread quickly and can kill or injure innocent people,” Foreman said.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2007, fire departments responded to more than 1.56 million fires across the country. That includes 32,500 intentionally set structure fires, resulting in 295 civilian deaths and $733,000,000 in property loss.
“Arson is a serious crime that affects everyone in the community by destroying property and endangering lives,” said Richard Crum, manager of OSFM’s Arson Division. “Everyone can play an important role in preventing potential arsons and helping us solve investigations. Arson Awareness Week gives us an opportunity to make the public more aware of what they can do to help make their communities safer.”
To reduce the chance of arson, the Fire Marshal offers the following tips:
• Secure and monitor unoccupied and abandoned buildings.
• Remove trash, debris and other combustible ma¬terials from the front and back of your business or home.
• Remove or securely store flammable material and chemicals from your business or home.
• Lock your doors and windows.
• Report suspicious people and activity to law en¬forcement officials.
• Support local Neighborhood Watch programs.
• Illuminate the exterior and entrances.
• Lock and secure your vehicle.
Anonymous tips on arson can be made to the state’s Arson Hotline 24-hours a day at (800) 252-2947.