Editorial: Special week focuses attention on these dangerous, often deadly criminal acts

May. 09, 2013 @ 11:33 PM

This is Arson Awareness Week nationally, a good time to focus on ingtentinally set fires that can cauise widespread damage and casualities. The U.S. Fire Administration has dedicated this year’s campaign to the theme of reducing residential arson.

“Arson destroys more than buildings. It can devastate a community through the decline of the neighborhood with increased insurance premiums, loss of business revenue and a decrease in property values,” State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak said.

The U.S. Fire Administration reports an estimated 16,800 intentionally set fires in residential buildings occur annually. These result in an estimated 280 deaths, 775 injuries and $593 million in property losses each year. The average dollar loss for an intentionally set fire in a residential building is $21,320.

The fatality rate for intentionally set residential fires is more than twice that of other residential building fires, the organization says. Rubbish, trash and waste; magazines, newspapers and writing paper; and uncontained flammable liquids or gas were the items most often first ignited in intentionally set fires in residential buildings.

Residential arsons also contribute to a large percentage of fires in Tennessee. State Fire Marshal’s Office data from the Tennessee Fire Incident Reporting System (TFIRS) show that:

  • From 2008-2012, there were 2,382 residential structure fires in Tennessee caused by arson. These fires contributed to 19 deaths and 114 injuries.
  • In 2012, there were 434 residential structure fires in Tennessee caused by arson.
  • For the past five years, Tennessee has averaged 476 residential arson fires a year.

The goal for this year’s Arson Awareness Week is to provide all residents with strategies to combat arson in their neighborhoods. The public can be engaged by implementing neighborhood cleanups along with improving internal and external security for their homes and abandoned properties using these measures:

  • Install smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system. Using operable smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers reduces the likelihood of death from fire by more than 82 percent.
  • Keep doors and windows locked.
  • Clean house. Remove excess vegetation and piles of leaves.
  • Clean up vacant homes. Work with local authorities to secure abandoned and vacant homes, which are potential arson targets.

Controlling arson fires takes everyone’s awareness and concern. But we can do it.