U.S. education and research in fire protection
U.S. FIRE ADMINISTRATION COMBATS NATION’S
Arson Awareness Week Targets Juvenile Firesetting
WASHINGTON (FEMA) — Everyday brings news of a serious national problem – arson. This
year, Arson Awareness Week, May 5-12, focuses on juvenile firesetting because young people
currently represent about 55 percent of arson arrests, according to the U.S. Fire Administration
(USFA), a part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Arson is not a hidden crime. It’s murder by fire, a violent crime against property and people. Every
year arson kills 700 people, destroys 100,000 buildings and costs more than $1.4 billion,” U.S. Fire
Administrator Carrye Brown said. “There are, however, effective ways citizens, along with law
enforcement and the fire service, can ensure the culprits are brought to justice.”
Brown said that everyone should take steps to prevent arson in their communities. Arson exists in
various forms — juvenile firesetting, vandalism, pyromania, a murder weapon, and concealment of a
crime. “We must identify the faces of arson. In addition to kids setting fires, incidents of adult
firesetting are increasing, ” she said.
Charles Evancho, national arson expert and chief of arson, Detroit Fire Department said, “Arson is
one of the most difficult crimes to prosecute successfully. Often the criminal justice system does not
view arson as a serious crime. The challenge is to develop sentencing for adults and juveniles.”
Last year, USFA, provided $2 million to 12 states to develop anti-arson programs. In Colorado, for
example, USFA grants support a juvenile firesetter prevention program in partnership with a
treatment center for abused children.
“We need grant programs and partnerships like this,” Brown said. “Arson must be tackled on several
fronts and people must protect themselves by strengthening prevention and apprehension efforts.”
Brown offered the following advice:
— Ask local law enforcement and fire officials to identify buildings at risk for arson.
— Organize arson block watches to monitor run-down and vacant buildings, and report
— Keep boxes, trash, wood and other combustibles away from buildings.
— Make sure everyone in the family knows two ways to escape from their home. Install
smoke detectors on each level of your home and check the batteries every month. Seconds
count in any fire.
USFA supports the nation’s firefighters with training, fire data analysis, public education and research
in fire protection technologies. For more information about arson and other fire issues, call FEMA’s
Fax-On-Demand at (202) 646-FEMA. For Internet users, arson facts are available on the World
Wide Web at: http://www.fema.gov/usfa/usfa.htm. Jump to the U.S. Fire Administration
NOTE: The text from two fact sheets follows. First is “Arson Facts in America” and the second is
“Arson in American Cities”.
Arson Facts in America:
— Arson is the second leading cause of residential fire deaths and accounts for approximately 25
percent of all fires in the United States.
— Arson is the leading cause of dollar loss from fire, exceeding $2 billion annually.
— One fifth of all property loss is due to arson.
— Arson is a violent crime that claimed 700 lives last year.
— Some 500,000 arson fires occur each year.
— The 1994 Uniform Crime Report shows the nation experienced a five percent increase in arson.
The northeast region, however, experienced a 17 percent increase, three times the national average.
— Only 15 percent of arson cases are closed by arrest.
— The average property loss from incendiary and suspicious fires increased by 24 percent to
— More than 41,000 vehicles were destroyed by arson, resulting in $137 million in property
— Juveniles accounted for 55 percent of arson arrests.
— Law enforcement agencies across the country reported 95,764 arson offenses.
— Fifty-two percent of arson fires occurred in structures, 26 percent in vehicles and 22 percent
other in other categories.
Arson in America’s Cities:
— In a recent study of 10 urban cities, the U.S. Fire Administration found in many instances arson
was a leading cause of fire fatalities and fires.
— In Baltimore…Arson is the second leading cause of fires. In 38 percent of fatal residential fires, no
detectors were present. According to the Uniform Crime Report, arson crimes increased 31 percent
in Maryland during the first nine months of 1995.
— In Birmingham…Arson fires accounted for 16 percent of reported fires. Smoke detectors were
not present in half of all fatal residential fires.
— In Chicago…Arson fires are the leading cause of fatal fires and accounted for 16 percent of
reported fires. No detectors were present in 55 percent of fatal residential fires.
— In Cleveland…One-quarter of residential fires are arson-related. Smoke detectors were not
present in 54 percent of fatal residential fires.
— In Dallas…Arson fires accounted for 25 percent of residential fire fatalities and one-third of
residential fires. No detectors were present in 95 percent of fatal residential fires.
— In Detroit…Arson accounted for nearly half (46 percent) of residential fire fatalities and 30 percent
of residential fires. Ninety percent of fatal residential fires had no detectors present.
— In the District of Columbia…Arson is responsible for 20 percent of fire deaths. One-quarter of
residential fires are arson-related. Smoke detectors were not present in 22 percent of the fatal
— In Los Angeles…One-quarter of residential fires are arson-related.
— In New York…Arson accounted for nearly one-quarter of residential fatal fires.
— In Philadelphia…Arson is the second leading cause of residential fire fatalities.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Office of Emergency Information & Public Affairs