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[SANFIRE] Arson Awareness Week 2024

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Arson Awareness Week 2024

Cypress Flats Hardware Store, Target of the Arsonist 'Caesar Cipher Arsonist', 8th March 2023 (Credit: G. Stone)

Arson Awareness Week concluded yesterday, a week designated by the U.S. Fire Administration on raising awareness of arson nationally running from May 5th to May 11th - The goal of this year’s campaign is to provide residents with strategies to combat arson in their neighborhoods.

The U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reports state that an estimated 16,800 intentionally set fires in residential buildings occur annually in the United States. These fires result in an estimated 280 deaths, 775 injuries and $593 million in property loss each year.

In the San Andreas Penal Code, FA. 301 Arson is outlined as; A person who willfully and maliciously sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or who aids or advises the burning of, any structure, forest land, or property.

But the question is, what really makes someone want to burn a house down? The motivations behind burning homes and other structures are curiosity, vandalism, concealing another crime, excitement, revenge and insurance fraud or arson for profit.


Curiousity fires are the most often fires caused by juveniles, as highlighted in last year's Arson Awareness Week - youth fire setting should be dealt with early, educating children in the danger of fire setting tools and that they are not toys. The misuse of fire has many variables including age, motivation for firesetting behavior, type of fires set, ignition materials used to set the fire, and the child’s understanding and limitations of fire. Firesetting behavior is often a symptom of the problem and may be manifested through stress and crisis in children’s lives.

Concealing Another Crime

As proven, arson is a destructive crime - Arson is sometimes used to mask or conceal another crime such as murder. The criminal sets the crime scene ablaze with the goal and hope that the victim's death will be attributed to the fire and not other causes. Other crimes such as burglary and larceny are also commonly covered up by fire set by intentional fire setting.


Some fires can be attributed to the excitement of an individual. But, excitement fires can be nuisance fires but may escalate to home destruction. Excitement-motivated arsonists desire the mental thrill associated with setting the fire and relish the attention that fire and subsequent investigation can bring them. They rarely intend to injure or cause harm to people. But, don't have the requisite knowledge to keep the fires under control.


According to the National Center for Analysis of Violent Crime, the motive that is most common for serial arsonist is revenge, approximately 41 percent. An arsonist will often target the home or property of someone in retaliation for an actual or perceived act or injustice against him or her if they believe they have not faced repercussions.

Insurance Fraud/Arson for Profit

Insurance Fraud, also known as Arson for Profit. Is a criminal method of obtaining money from a fire loss policy. Torching homes for an insurance payout. However, these acts endanger innocent neighbors and brave local firefighters, and even their own family. These senseless acts of insurance crimes also hit all honest homeowners with repercussions of raised premiums due to said crime at a time when money may be tight for all.

Los Santos County Arson Arrest Statistics for 2023

Be Aware of Ways to Safeguard Homes, Buildings, and Property

Acts of arson rob communities of valuable assets, lives and property - It destroys more than buildings, it can destroy lives. Arson can devastate a community resulting in decline through increased insurance premiums, loss of business revenue and decrease in property values. The Office of The State Fire Marshal can assist communities reduce the occurrence of arson and reduce its devastating effect by making residents aware of measures to safeguard homes and property.

Protect Homes from Arson

Arson destroys more than homes; it can devastate a neighborhood resulting in decline through increased insurance premiums and a decrease in property values. The fatality rate for intentionally set residential fires is more than double that of other residential building fires? (Source) So, keeping that in mind. Here are some tips of how you can protect your home;

Illuminate exterior and entrances

Ensure your home is well lit, ensuring lights are installed on every side of your home. This ensures if someone visits, they are able to be seen even in the nighttime. You could also invest in motion-activated lighting near the entrances to let you know when someone approaches your door. But thinking inside of your home, you could also think of time sensitive lighting inside your property to give the illusion of an occupied home and give the idea you're at home!

Clear obstructions

Clearing all obstructions can assist with keeping your home visible to the street. But, also helps keep flammable material minimal. Aim to trim or remove shrubbery that blocks the view of your home from the street. Ensuring to trim bushes and plants during growing season especially as plants may be liable to grow bigger and become dryer.

Install security and fire alarm systems

Consider installing security and fire alarm devices that can transmit an alarm to the police or fire department when the home alarm sounds, this can also notify your neighbors in the surrounding area and as well as that, alert you and your family too. As well as this, home sprinklers reduce the risk of death and property damage by 82 percent.

Keep doors and windows locked

Ensure your home is secure by installing deadlocks on all external doors and entrances so people cannot invite themselves into your house as well as install window hardware with spring-loaded bolts that insert through the window frame into the wall frame these are less likely to be easily opened with something as simple as a credit card. A simple locked door could be the deterrent that saves a house from arson.

Clean your house

An abandoned-looking home makes for an easy target - Ensure you secure your home if you plan to go on holiday or need to vacate for whatever reason. This may include adding additional locks or boarding up broken windows or other openings. Keep your home clean from any trash such as unused and unneeded paper, trash, cleaning supplies, partial cans of paint and other materials that could become kindling and fuel a fire.

Also ensure if you aren't taking your vehicle with you, find somewhere safe to store it. Most car fires are started to cover up other criminal activity or simply as an act of vandalism.

Preventing Arson at Construction Sites

Everyone can do their part to prevent arson acts at construction sites, but awareness is key. Did you know that buildings visibly under construction or renovation are the most vulnerable to arson? Due to the higher accumulation of waste, ordinary combustibles, limited access, minimal water supplies and hazardous operations increase the challenge, here's some tips for construction sites (Source);

What contractors can do

Contractors can ensure to store solvents, fuels, tools and in a securely locked container or remove them completely from the site when not in use or in attendance to the site as well as ensuring they clear as they go, removing any waste or debris to minimise potential kindling. Securing a site can also help with locks on any doors or gates and having security that actively patrols when people are not presently working, drive-bys of the site can also be requested from law enforcement to ensure your local officers are aware of construction on-going in their local area.

What community members can do

Be aware, that awareness is key to prevention. Be aware of any construction on going in your neighbourhood and ensure any suspicious activity at local sites is reported to local law enforcement appropriately. You could be the difference between preventing an act of arson.

Preventing and Reducing Arson at Abandoned or Vacant Buildings

Vacant and otherwise abandoned homes and other structures can be treacherous for firefighters as they lack the structural integrity of a well maintained property Theres four ways communities can help reduce the negative impact associated with unsecured abandoned or vacant properties and keep firefighters safe; Monitor, Secure, Inspect and Mark.


Monitor and keep watch of all vacant properties. Properties that are secure and well-maintained, even though they are unoccupied, are not the problem. Those that have no viable owner and are unsecured and accessible to unauthorized entry require immediate attention to prevent fires and other criminal activity.


Keeping unauthorized occupants out of vacant and abandoned buildings is key to preventing fires. Unsecured vacant or abandoned buildings are intrinsically more dangerous than occupied structures. While there are many ways to secure properties, boarding is most effective - If done properly with a properly co-ordinated surveillance program make a property very difficult to enter. Properties also secured this way make a structure less prone to deterioration due to weather and other elements.


Inspect and evaluate vacant or abandoned buildings to identify potential safety issues that first responders would face if they responded to a fire. Personnel assigned to inspect vacant or abandoned buildings should use extreme caution when entering and moving throughout these structures. Potential hazards for both inspectors and first responders include; Fall and trip hazards, Hazardous Materials, Ongoing criminal activity, Standing water in basements, Unauthorized occupants, and Unstable structure. Individuals partaking in inspections should always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment and if concerned can always contact the Office of The State Fire Marshal.


Mark buildings after they are secured and inspected. This provides a visual cue to firefighters responding to a fire, indicating that the property is vacant, was evaluated and found to contain hazards to firefighters.

Youth Firesetting

Harping back to last years theme youth firesetting, children are often curious about fire. While curiosity is normal, there are things you can inform parents and caregivers about to prevent children from experimenting with fire. Educate children. Teach children that fire is dangerous. Only adults should use matches and lighters. Teach children that fire is dangerous. Fire is a tool, not a toy, and must only be used by adults.


SANFIRE's 2023 information sheet on AAW2023


Everyone has a part to play when preventing acts of arson, unlike vandalism, arson destroys lives and property - Education is key to prevention and steps can be taken to avoid falling victim yourself. If in doubt or you witness an act of arson, The Office Of The State Fire Marshal with the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection can be contacted 4-4-4. 7 days a week, 365 Days a year.



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