SPRINGFIELD – In conjunction with Arson Awareness Week 2011, the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is focusing attention on serial arsonists and is aiding law enforcement, fire departments, and communities with tools and tactics to help prevent arson.
“A serial arsonist can devastate a community and paralyze residents with fear,” said Larry Matkaitis, Illinois State Fire Marshal. “The crime can also affect property values and drive up insurance costs.”
Serial arson is defined as an offense committed by fire setters who set three or more fires with a significant cooling off period between the fires. These types of fires often plague both rural and urban communities causing significant loss of life and millions of dollars in property damage, adding to the suffering already caused by the current economic climate.
In 2010, OSFM’s arson division conducted 1,260 investigations and resulted in more than 100 arrests, including 85 adults and 19 juveniles.
According to the United State Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) data, from 2004 to 2006 an estimated 210,300 intentionally set fires occurred each year in the United States.
Intentionally set fires account for 13 percent of fires responded to by fire departments across the nation. These fires resulted in an average of approximately 375 deaths, 1,300 injuries, and more than $1 billion in property loss each year.
Help fight arson
The Illinois Advisory Committee on Arson Prevention (IACAP) has been established to encourage and recognize good citizenship and to enlist public cooperation with state and local authorities in the investigation of arson fires and the arrest of arsonists. IACAP provides rewards up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of an arsonist. To report arson, call your local fire or police agency or one of the state’s arson hotlines:
• In Chicago—(773) 533-3473
• Elsewhere in Illinois—(800) 252-2947
For more information regarding the 2011 Arson Awareness Week, go to www.usfa.fema.gov/aaw/. To obtain information about fire safety and prevention, please visit www.state.il.us/osfm or www.nfpa.org.