View Poll Results: Firefighter Arson is:

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  • Not a problem; no big deal.

    0 0%
  • A growing problem, but don't want to discuss it.

    0 0%
  • A growing problem that is being ignored.

    8 22.86%
  • A growing problem that must be addressed.

    27 77.14%
  1. #1
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    Default Firefighter Arson Is...

    Well, since the discussion on firefighters as fire-setters has basically gone silent, I thought it might be a good time for a poll.
    So, here it is.
    Please mark the answer that best describes your feelings on the subject.
    Please; no wagering.
    CR
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  2. #2
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    The Fire service is sworn to protect the
    Public from fire. what is happening is a
    violation of trust, many believe a sacred
    trust.

    The problem needs to be exposed and
    addressed.

    The world as Bill sees it.

  3. #3
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    I didn't vote because I honestly don't think it's a growing problem. I suspect, rather, that it has always been a big problem that got swept under the rug because it went undiscovered, un-reported, covered up, dealt with as a "local" problem, etc. Modern communication has probably opened a lot of eyes to the issue in the fire service and the general public.

    Unfortunately, I don't think it is asequately addressed in most places. For starters, how many departments (paid or volunteer makes no difference) still don't run simple background checks?
    ullrichk
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    Chief, I voted. But it will do no good. Let me tell a quick story.

    About a year and half ago, I tried to get people to write to the NVFC to try to initiate a project on fire fighter arson. Here is a list of the people, according to them, of the people who wrote.

    GeorgeWendtCFI

    I truly believe that the majority of the volunteer fire service may SAY that this is a terrible problem, but that they really don't want to take away their chance to go to a working fire.

    Just to remind everyone of my background, in my career as a full-time, law enforcement-based fire investigator, my agency locked up almost 40 volunteer fire fighters for arson-related crimes. I absolutely know what I am talking about.

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    George.. you can't give up the fight. The NVFC is an ostrich with it's head in the sand, and its leadership thinks that if you ignore the problem long enough, it will go away.... wrong!
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

  6. #6
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    Originally posted by CaptainGonzo
    George.. you can't give up the fight. The NVFC is an ostrich with it's head in the sand, and its leadership thinks that if you ignore the problem long enough, it will go away.... wrong!
    Gonzo, I tried to fight this fight and I was alone. The State rests.

  7. #7
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    How do you eat an elephant, George?


    One bite at a time...I'm gonna start nibbling in Ohio, hopefully soon.
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    Don't give up the fight guys. When you keep nibbling, at some point you will hit a nerve and get them out of their comfort zones.
    Good luck to you Steve. Bite long and hard!

  9. #9
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    Many possibilities exist here.

    1. The media is making this a larger issue.
    2. Investigations are uncovering the culprits behind these arson fires
    3. More firefighters are committing arson.

    This is not an issue that should be swept under the carpet and it is not some dirty little secret that firefighters should want to see hidden away like the bastard child. It is a problem in the ranks and the more it put in the public eye, the more we should be speaking, (yelling) out about our total support of swift and harsh penalties for anyone who would tarnish an otherwise noble calling.

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    I am not sure if it is a growing problem .............but it certainly is a problem none the less.
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    George,

    You say that your company locked up 40 people and you know what you are talking about right? Whas there a common theme to the reason "why" they did what they did? Does the NVFC has any real authority or pull for such instances or problems of this nature??
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    Originally posted by MOTOWN88
    George,

    You say that your company locked up 40 people and you know what you are talking about right? Whas there a common theme to the reason "why" they did what they did? Does the NVFC has any real authority or pull for such instances or problems of this nature??
    1. I am a (recently retired) full time law enforcement fire investigator (county level). My "company" did not lock up almost 40 people. My agency did. Just for clarification.


    2. The common threads were;
    a) Need for action and craving for the camaraderie of the firehouse
    b) boredom
    c) easily diagnosed psychologocal issues

    3. The NVFC has no authority to do anything. But they do have a lobby and a voice at the USFA. They co-authored a cupcake and icing report with the USFA that basically stated (get ready-everybody sit down) that fire fighter arson is a problem. They offered little in the way of solution or hope that anything would be done.

    Here'e the link: http://www.nvfc.org/news/hn_firefighter_arson.html

    I know Tim Huff very well. We have discussed this problem at length. It is his belief that almost all fire fighters with a propensity to set fires display a similar psychological profile that could be identified by a psychological examination at the time of application.

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    Some other and related problems:

    1)Recruitment and retention is a problem, why look for more reasons to disqualify a candidate.

    2)A belief that it can't happen here, only over there.

    Some departments around here have gone against the State mandated CPAT standards becuase it would reduce their pool of candidates for the job.

    I can see this "logic" being applied in the same way when it comes to physch exams.

  14. #14
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    Firefighter arson to me is another example of a subject that is swept under the rug under the hackneyd and molested pretense of brotherhood.
    I dont suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.

  15. #15
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    I looked on snopes.com for the NVFC being listed as an urban legend, it wasn't. So hopefully they will get into the game.
    I do believe firefighter arson is growing, but at the same rate as firefighter turn-over. Couple that with better arson investigation, an increase in the desire by prosecutors to actually pursue the crime, and media coverage, it does have the signature of a growing problem.
    Dave, you bring up some good points, and those are the points that a National level organization should be addressing. For some unkown reason, the NVFC seems to be avoiding the big picture.
    Last edited by SPFDRum; 10-18-2004 at 08:36 PM.
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    I have had to deal personally with FF arson. I have written to NVFC, with no response. Not for nothing, but NVFC is only 1 national organization. ALL national FF organizations should be doing something about this. They should all be putting out recommendations and/or suggestions.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  17. #17
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    I agree with Ullrichk's diagnosis.

    My gut tells me it's not a "growing" problem.

    But it is a problem that gets reported more do to technology like the AP internet feeds that keeps it from being just a local news article.
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    I too would suspect that it is not "growing" as much as it is just being reported more now.

    It is probably subject to the same media exposure as sexual assault, youth crime, etc. The frequency is not actually increasing as may seem to think, but we are simply seeing more coverage and media distribution of these stories.

    As for the background checks, I would love to see a generic hiring package that could be used by the small town volley dept to initially screen an applicant without having to pay a fortune or hold a psychology degree to interpret. As the comment on turnover suggested, when small depts are struggling just to find volunteers, you would have to be a bloody axe murderer to be declined acceptance.

    Most departments around here base selection solely on a vote from current membership. Which basically means if you are a "Good Guy", you're probably in.
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  19. #19
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    Originally posted by SPFDRum
    I looked on snopes.com for the NVFC being listed as an urban legend, it wasn't.
    Now thats funny.... I dont care who ya are!
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  20. #20
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    Default Growing or not....

    Whether there are more fire fighter arsons committed now than in the past is irrelavent. Because these stories get more attention in the national press and through the internet, many more people see them and more people begin to get the impression that volunteers are nothing more than a bunch of arsonists.

    Many of what each of you have said is correct. I've heard all the same excuses and reasons not to run criminal background checks, or do a background investigation on a prospective recruit. But the results of not doing it and getting a person that will destroy your organizations credibility in the community through fire setting activity is very real and places a very big financial burden on the fire company and eventually on the community.

    Look back on the Volunteer threads. I've posted so many "Loser" threads I think I've lost track. Each was different and span only a few years. In one case a company voted on a man for chief who had previously been convicted of arson by the Feds. He was in that position when he was arrested for stealing the company blind a few years later.

    In another case, a group of firefighters here in PA burned down their own firehouse because they wanted to collect the insurance on it to get a new firehouse. They even used fire company flammable liquids and flares to commit the arson. And get this...they did it twice before they got it right.

    What message does that send to the citizens of these respective communities? What message does that send to the local elected officials when they are listening to this company ask for more money because they can't make ends meet? After I posted the second case listed above as one of the "Loser" posts, I even got one guy that that tried to justify their actions because they didn't have enough money to put fuel in their trucks.

    To make matters worse, a recent "Blue Ribbon Report" on the problems facing volunteer fire companies on recruitment and retention said very little about this problem, although I believe there is a direct link to recruitment and retention. Think about it. If you had some free time and wanted to make a difference in an organization in your community, would you do it for a group that you thought was lawless and crazy? I doubt it.

    As others have said this isn't a local issue anymore. It is a national issue. The good news is that there are concrete things that we can do that can and will have an impact. South Carolina was having a serious problem with this in their state. They instituted a program that reduced their fire fighter arson cases from 33 to 3 in just one year. We can have an impact and we can take steps, although difficult, to change this behavior.

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  21. #21
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    Bump.

    24,000 + people on this site and we get less than 20 posts.
    I dont suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.

  22. #22
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    Maybe my memory is faulty, but it seems like age/experience is often a factor. Is it just my imagination, or does it seem like the majority of these arsons (especially those by volunteers) are done by 18 to maybe 25 year olds (or younger)? Seems like more often than not the guilty party is found to be new member with only a few months or even weeks with the department. They've been in just long enough to get itching for a fire but not long enough to realize the risk they run of embarassing their department, or worse, getting another member hurt responding to their "prank". Could immaturity be a factor? Or is this another example of the MTV "Jackass" generation run amok? A growing disrespect for others' rights and property? George, what's your data show? Any truth to this?

    Food for thought....maybe the young, inexperienced ones are only getting caught because they don't know how to cover their tracks. Could older, experienced firefighters be setting more fires than we realize because they know how to hide it? I'd like to think not. But look how long it took to catch John Orr....Scary thought..
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  23. #23
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    Originally posted by dmleblanc
    Maybe my memory is faulty, but it seems like age/experience is often a factor. Is it just my imagination, or does it seem like the majority of these arsons (especially those by volunteers) are done by 18 to maybe 25 year olds (or younger)? Seems like more often than not the guilty party is found to be new member with only a few months or even weeks with the department. They've been in just long enough to get itching for a fire but not long enough to realize the risk they run of embarassing their department, or worse, getting another member hurt responding to their "prank". Could immaturity be a factor? Or is this another example of the MTV "Jackass" generation run amok? A growing disrespect for others' rights and property? George, what's your data show? Any truth to this?

    Food for thought....maybe the young, inexperienced ones are only getting caught because they don't know how to cover their tracks. Could older, experienced firefighters be setting more fires than we realize because they know how to hide it? I'd like to think not. But look how long it took to catch John Orr....Scary thought..
    While my cases usually involved FF under the age of 25, I believe there were three who were between 40 and 55.

    I don't think immaturity in the classic sense plays much of a part. I think that all of them realized the seriousness of their act. That is why they try not to get caught. In a nutshell, it is either the need for the excitement of fighting the fire or the need for comraderie and companionship at the fire house after a call.

    This is also buttressed by my experience that there is usually a increasing level of severity in these calls. I have had guys who started with telephone false alarms and brush fires. They then would move up to structures as they got brazen enough and there were no adverse consequences (ie; investigations).

    I firmily believe that in the majority of cases, the FD knows they have a problem. There is a discernible increase in nuisance runs that are at "opportune" times for some members. They also notice the severity and frequency of these alarms increase. This could be coupled with missing items such as gasoline and flares. It is at the early stages that the problem should be addressed.

    I was always a fan of making a huge production out of the investigation, with all the FF standing by watching. I had one case where I was proclaiming quite loudly where and how the fire was set, then began to expound on how the offender would be caught and sentenced to prison blah, blah, blah. My partner was watching the FF and literally saw one kid almost pass out. He turned out to be our guy.

  24. #24
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    Default Part of the problem

    Originally posted by dmleblanc
    Maybe my memory is faulty, but it seems like age/experience is often a factor. Is it just my imagination, or does it seem like the majority of these arsons (especially those by volunteers) are done by 18 to maybe 25 year olds (or younger)? Seems like more often than not the guilty party is found to be new member with only a few months or even weeks with the department. They've been in just long enough to get itching for a fire but not long enough to realize the risk they run of embarassing their department, or worse, getting another member hurt responding to their "prank". Could immaturity be a factor? Or is this another example of the MTV "Jackass" generation run amok? A growing disrespect for others' rights and property? George, what's your data show? Any truth to this?
    The fact that your asking George what his experience is regarding fire fighter arson is in a big part the problem. We don't have a national or state data base on fire fighters that have committed this crime, or even figures on how many fire fighters have been arrested or found guilty of arson or related charges.

    More importantly for far too long the volunteer fire service has known of this problem and done nothing about it.

  25. #25
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    Default and the problem continues...

    FF's get PROBATION for setting fire Here is the problem. Stop "sugar coating" their punishment. These guys were charged with a felony and get off with probation. As long as people aren't going to get punished, why would they be worried about getting caught?
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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