1. #1
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    Default Firefighter arson' often for the thrill

    Get up, get coffee, check the Times-Dispatch, and find TWO interesting and relevant articles...here's the first one...

    Firefighter arson often for the thrill
    Experts say most such blazes are small but can have a big impact

    BY BILL GEROUX
    TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER

    Jan 28, 2006

    NORFOLK - On the surface, the arrest of a Norfolk firefighter Tuesday in a series of fires in Maryland is a striking paradox, a man-bites-dog story. But experts say it may just be the latest example of a little-known phenomenon called "firefighter arson."

    The vast majority of the nation's roughly 1 mil- lion firefighters would never think of starting fire, but a tiny percentage across the U.S. wage secret campaigns of arson in the communities they have sworn to protect, said Timothy G. Huff, a former FBI analyst who began tracking such cases for the bureau in the 1990s.

    Most of those firefighter-arsonists are young volunteers, driven by a thirst for excitement, a need for public adulation, or the promise of money they receive only when the fire trucks roll, Huff said in an interview yesterday.

    Their targets tend to be stands of tall grass and unoccupied vehicles and buildings, close enough to their fire stations that they can respond to the blazes, said Ken Cade, a South Carolina forester who has interviewed many of them. Most of them don't want to hurt anyone, Cade said, but sometimes their needs - and their fires - escalate beyond their control.

    "We've seen cases where a firefighter sets a house on fire, drives around the block a few times until he can see smoke, calls in the fire, and then rushes in to save the little old lady he saw through the window."

    There are no reliable statistics of firefighter arsons nationwide. Arson is difficult to detect and even harder to solve, and even when a case is solved, the suspect's profession does not figure into the statistics, said Allen Sapp, emeritus professor of criminology at Central Missouri State University. But the anecdotal evidence suggests firefighter arson is more common than the public realizes.

    In the early 1990s, a series of arrests in South Carolina prompted Cade to poll fire chiefs across the state. He discovered that 40 firefighters per year were being arrested statewide for setting fires in woods, trash bins and vacant buildings - mainly for the experience of putting them out.

    Around the same time, Huff, who traveled around the country giving talks, began asking fire officials in his audiences about any firefighter-arson cases in their departments. He quickly learned of 25 cases involving a total of 75 firefighters and 182 fires.

    Virginia, like most states, does not keep records of firefighter arsons. But the files of The Times-Dispatch chronicle 15 such cases in the past 19 years, spanning the state. Most of those cases involved young volunteer firefighters setting fire to unoccupied buildings. The fires caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, and one death.

    The history of firefighter arson in the U.S. has a few notorious chapters, including a huge Arizona forest fire set by an unemployed wildlands firefighter, and a deadly store arson by a California arson investigator that killed four people, including a 2-year-old child. The latter became the subject of a book and a made-for-TV movie. In addition, a fictional firefighter arsonist was the villain in the popular motion picture "Backdraft."

    For the most part, however, firefighters set small-scale "nuisance" fires. But that does not mean firefighter arson is a trivial problem for the fire service, Huff and other experts wrote in a 2003 report to the U.S. Fire Administration. "Its importance is measured not by a large number of incidents but by the serious impact of the very few which do occur."

    Part of that impact is a shared sense of betrayal among fellow firefighters and among the people the department serves, the report said. The authors recommended that fire departments carefully screen applicants for prior trouble with the law and promptly investigate any suspicious activity in the ranks.

    William C. Smith, executive director of the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association, said fire professionals in the state recognize the possibility of arsonists in their midst and watch for telltale patterns. He said some of Virginia's larger fire departments require background checks and psychological tests to examine applicants' fitness for the job.

    But such measures are too costly and burdensome for many volunteer departments, which makes up roughly 60 percent of Virginia's firefighting force, Smith said. Many of those fire companies struggle to find people willing to serve.


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    It's kinda funny, but the writer of the article, Bill Geroux, writes as if he has uncovered a deep dark secret.
    Truth is, firefighter firesetters have been the fire service's dirty little secret since at least the 80s, when we were just starting to recognize the problem.
    But back then, I would bet that firefighters setting fires were doing it out of retaliation than thrill seeking.
    In fact; I don't think that is even a reason today. It's not for the thrill; it's so they can take what they have learned and apply it and even get paid for it.
    But I don't think it's for the thrill in the true sense.
    Geroux refers to Parks, the Norfolk firefighter who stands accused of setting fires, as an example of firefighter arson, a "little-known phenomenon". That's what I find funny.
    Think about all of the discussions we have had here on the subject and I wouldn't exactly call it "little-known". I think a better description might be "little reported".
    Fire departments still insist on dealing with firefighter firesetters internally. For some strange reason, departments believe that if they catch them, then kick them off of the department, that is "punishment enough". Oh the humiliation of getting kicked off of a volunteer department for setting a fire. Please don't tell Mom and Dad.
    And then they move on to another department, only to continue their pattern of firesetting.
    I agree that there are not reliable statistics of firefighter arsons, simply because we don't know how many of them AREN'T getting reported.
    Firefighter arson is fire service issue that must be addressed and not ignored.
    In fact; I would be for at least DOUBLING the sentence for any firefighter caught and convicted of setting fires. I don't care if it is a vegetation fire or a car fire. DOUBLE.
    But we have to first admit that there is a problem before we can change it.
    CR
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    Remember Bradley Golden (9/25/01)
    RIP HOF Robert J. Compton(ENG6511)

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    Art... should we send Mr. Geroux the link to the "Firefighters and Arson" thread?

    He'll think he struck the motherload and will haveimages of the Pulitzer Prize dancingf before his eyes!
    ‎"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

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo
    Art... should we send Mr. Geroux the link to the "Firefighters and Arson" thread?

    He'll think he struck the motherload and will haveimages of the Pulitzer Prize dancingf before his eyes!
    You know; that thread is over three years old now. Ed started it back in August of 2002 and has been going strong ever since.
    I wonder if britfan knows about it.
    No doubt that thread would be a great resource for anyone wanting to do a study on firefighter arsons.
    Where has Ed been anyway?
    CR
    Visit www.iacoj.com
    Remember Bradley Golden (9/25/01)
    RIP HOF Robert J. Compton(ENG6511)

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    Wasn't that the second thread with those articles in it?

    BTW, I mentioned it on another thread, there will be a block of instruction in Fire Fighter Arson at the IAAI Annual Training Conference in Denver, 3/30-4/5/2006.

    www.firearson.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    Wasn't that the second thread with those articles in it?

    BTW, I mentioned it on another thread, there will be a block of instruction in Fire Fighter Arson at the IAAI Annual Training Conference in Denver, 3/30-4/5/2006.

    www.firearson.com
    Amen. Finally. Hope it's a good one.
    CR
    Visit www.iacoj.com
    Remember Bradley Golden (9/25/01)
    RIP HOF Robert J. Compton(ENG6511)

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