USFA Studies Firefighter Arson

The United States Fire Administration has released a report on the problem of firefighter arson and what some communities and states are doing to prevent it.

Although there is little data available on how often firefighter arson occurs, the report looks at issues such as motive, the signs that an arsonist may be a firefighter, how the arsonist's crimes may escalate over time, and the impact of firefighter arson on the fire department and community. "Given the far-reaching effects that criminal firesetting by a firefighter can cause, awareness and action are clearly necessary," the overview states.

According to the USFA, firefighter arson task forces have been organized to prevent the crime through programs including education, training, and criminal background and reference checks. The report highlights some of these efforts to give fire service leaders ideas for their own departments.

The report also brings the issue home by examining specific cases, some of which involve "extreme" firefighter arsonists who purposely put people's lives in danger.

"In reviewing cases of firefighter arson for this report, it was apparent that one of the primary motives for firefighters who commit arson is to be seen as a hero," the overview says. "In North Carolina, one firefighter would set fire to an occupied house, and then return to the scene and rescue the family. His need for excitement, being worshiped, and getting attention predominated over any concern about the terrible danger to which he exposed the occupants."


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