Release Date: April 28, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and response has announced that this year's National Arson Awareness Week has been scheduled for May 1 – 7. Spearheaded by The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Fire Administration and the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI), this year's theme is "School Arson—A Burning Subject." The goals of this year's Arson Awareness Week are to make communities aware of the school arson problem and to engage citizens in joining the fight.

"Prevention and awareness are the key factors in mitigating school fires," said Brown. "The goal this year is to focus the public's attention on the arson problem in schools. Sixty-one percent of all school structure fires are caused by arson, with 70 percent of those school arson fires hitting the nation's high schools. Fatalities from school fires are rare, but the injuries caused by these fires are higher than those of all non-residential structure fires. Arson robs communities of its valuable assets – lives and property."

Additionally, the nation's fire departments reported that children under the age of 18 started 41,900 fires, causing an estimated 165 civilian deaths, 1,900 civilian injuries, and $272 million in direct property damage. Seventy-eight percent of school fires occur during the school week and 22 percent on weekends. Typically, fires are started in school bathroom trash cans, locations that present children with a place to set a fire and areas that are normally without constant adult supervision.

Steps that can reduce incidents of arson include:

Contact your local fire or police department if you know or suspect an arson crime.
Report suspicious activity near houses or other buildings. Support Neighborhood Watch programs.
Keep leaves and flammable debris away from buildings. Don't make it easy for an arsonist to start a fire or facilitate a fire's spread to adjacent buildings.
Keep matches and lighters out of reach of small children.
Arson Awareness Week information is available from the U.S. Fire Administration and the International Association of Arson Investigators, Inc.