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  • Intentional Fires

    July 2017 Richard Campbell

    © July 2017 National Fire Protection Association

  • Abstract During 2010-2014, an estimated 261,330 intentional fires were reported to U.S. municipal fire departments each year, with associated annual losses of 440 civilian deaths, 1,310 civilian injuries, and $1 billion in direct property damage. Outside or unclassified fires accounted for three-quarters of these incidents (75%), while 19% were structure fires and 6% were vehicle fires.

    The fire estimates are based on data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) conducted by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and the annual fire department experience survey conducted by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

    Keywords: fire statistics, fire setting, intentional fires, arson, incendiary fires

    Acknowledgements

    The National Fire Protection Association thanks all the fire departments and state fire authorities who participate in the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the annual NFPA fire experience survey. These firefighters are the original sources of the detailed data that make this analysis possible. Their contributions allow us to estimate the size of the fire problem.

    We are also grateful to the U.S. Fire Administration for its work in developing, coordinating, and maintaining NFIRS.

    To learn more about research at NFPA visit www.nfpa.org/research.

    Copies of this report are available from: NFPA Research, Data and Analytics Division 1 Batterymarch Park Quincy, MA 02169-7471 www.nfpa.org E-mail: research@nfpa.org Phone: 617-984-7451

    NFPA No. ATP

    http://www.nfpa.org/research http://www.nfpa.org/ mailto:research@nfpa.org

  • This information is provided to help advance fire safety. It does not represent the official position of the NFPA or its Technical Committees. The NFPA disclaims liability for any personal injury, property, or other damages of any nature whatsoever resulting from the use of this information.

    NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION The leading information and knowledge resource on �re, electrical and related hazards

    © 2017 National Fire Protection Association / June 2017

    FACT SHEET » RESEARCH

    Each year between 2010 and 2014, an estimated 261,330 intentionally set fires were reported to fire departments in the United States. The fires included 196,480 outside or unclassified fires, 49,690 structure fires, and 13,160 vehicle fires. Losses resulting from these fires included:

    • 440 civilian deaths • 1,310 civilian injuries • $1 billion in direct property damage

    Intentional Fires Fact Sheet

    What is an “intentional” fire? The fire statistics in this analysis use detailed data from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting Systems (NFIRS). The definition of “intentional” in NFIRS 5.0 specifically includes “deliberate misuse of heat source or a fire of an incendiary nature.” Additional resources can be found at www.nfpa.org/arson.

    75%

    5% 12%

    2%

    19%

    87% 84% 86%

    6% 7% 4% 12%

    0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%

    100%

    Fires Civilian Injuries Direct Property DamageCivilian Deaths

    Outside or unclassified fires Structures Vehicle

    Intentional Fires and Losses by Incident Type, 2010–2014 Annual Averages

    75% of intentional fires occurred outside.

    Although 19% of intentional fires involved structures, these fires accounted for 87% of civilian deaths, 84% of civilian injuries, and 86% of direct property damage resulting from intentional fires.

    6% of intentional fires involved vehicles. These fires accounted for 12% of the direct property damage.

    Source: NFPA Research: www.nfpa.org/research Contact information: 617-984-7451 or research@nfpa.org

    http://www.nfpa.org/news-and-research/fire-statistics-and-reports/fire-statistics/fire-causes/arson-and-juvenile-firesetting/intentional-fires

  • Table of Contents

    i

    iii

    iv

    1

    4

    8

    11

    14

    16

    51

    60

    List of Tables and Figures

    Identifying Intentional Fires

    Executive Summary

    Overview: Intentional Fires

    Section 1. Intentional Structure Fires

    Section 2. Intentional Outside or Unclassified Fires

    Section 3. Intentional Vehicle Fires

    Section 4. Firesetters and Criminal Justice

    Supporting Tables

    Appendix A. How National Estimates Statistics are Calculated

    Appendix B. NFIRS Coding Changes from 4.1 to 5.0

    Appendix C. Selected Published Incidents 63

  • Intentional Fires, 7/17 i NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

    List of Tables and Figures

    Tables Page Figures Page

    Intentional Fires Overview Table A. Intentional Fires by Incident Type 1 Figure 1. Intentional Fires as Percentage of Structure

    Fires by Property Use 2

    Table B. Intentional Fires, by Investigation Status and Suspected Motive

    3 Figure 2. Intentional Fires by Year, 2002-2014 2

    Table C. Intentional Structure Fires by Property Use

    4 Figure 3. Intentional Structure Fires by Year, 2002-2014

    5

    Table D. Intentional Outside or Unclassified Fires by Incident Type

    8 Figure 4. Intentional Structure Fires by Alarm Hour, 2010-2014

    7

    Figure 5. Intentional Outside and Unclassified Fires by Year, 2002-2014

    8

    Figure 6. Intentional Outside and Unclassified Fires by Alarm Hour, 2010-2014

    9

    Figure 7. Intentional Vehicle Fires by Year 2002-2014

    11

    Figure 8. Intentional Vehicle Fires by Alarm Hour, 2010-2014 Annual Averages

    12

    Figure 9. Intentional Vehicle Fires by Month, 2010-2014 Annual Averages

    13

    Supporting Tables Intentional Fires by Incident Type and Year 2002-2014

    Table 1A. Fires 16 Table 1B. Deaths 16 Table 1C. Injuries 17 Table 1D. Direct Property Damage (in Millions) 17

    Table 2. Intentional Fires with Arson Modules by Case Status 18 Table 3. Intentional Fires with Arson Modules by Property Ownership 18 Table 4. Intentional Structure Fires by Structure Status 19

    Intentional Home Structure Fires Table 5A. By Area of Origin 20 Table 6A. By Item First Ignited 23 Table 7A. By Heat Source 26 Table 8A. By Day of Week 28 Table 9A. By Month 30 Table 10A. By Alarm Hour 32

    Intentional Educational Property Structure Fires Table 5B. By Area of Origin 21 Table 6B. By Item First Ignited 24 Table 7B. By Heat Source 26 Table 8B. By Day of Week 28 Table 9B. By Month 30 Table 10B. By Alarm Hour 33

  • Intentional Fires, 7/17 ii NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

    Intentional Storage Property Structure Fires Table 5C. By Area of Origin 21 Table 6C. By Item First Ignited 24 Table 7C. By Heat Source 27 Table 8C. By Day of Week 29 Table 9C. By Month 31 Table 10C. By Alarm Hour 34

    Intentional Mercantile or Business Property Structure Fires Table 5D. By Area of Origin 22 Table 6D. By Item First Ignited 25 Table 7D. By Heat Source 27 Table 8D. By Day of Week 29 Table 9D. By Month 31 Table 10D. By Alarm Hour 35

    Intentional Outside or Unclassified Fires Table 11. By Area of Origin 36 Table 12. By Item First Ignited 37 Table 13. By Heat Source 38 Table 14. By Day of Week 39 Table 15. By Alarm Hour 39

    By Month Table 16A. Outside and Unclassified Fires 41 Table 16B. Outside Trash or Rubbish Fires 41 Table 16C. Outside or Unclassified Non-trash 42

    Intentional Vehicle Fires Table 17. By Area of Origin 43 Table 18. By Item First Ignited 43 Table 19. By Heat Source 44 Table 20. By Day of Week 44 Table 21. By Alarm Hour 45 Table 22. By Month 46

    Firesetters and Criminal Justice Table 23. Arson Offenses, 2013-2014 46 Table 24. Percent of Arson Offenses Cleared by Arrest or Exceptional Means, by Region by Year

    1984-2014 47

    Table 25. Percent of Arson Arrests by Age, 2014 48 Table 26. Percent of Arson Arrests, by Age, 1980-2014 49 Table 27. U.S. Arson Offense Rates by Size of Community, 1993-2014 50

  • Intentional Fires, 7/17 iii NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

    Identifying Intentional Fires

    What is an “intentional” fire?

    The fire statistics in this analyses use detailed data from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting Systems (NFIRS). The definition of “intentional” in NFIRS 5.0 specifically includes “deliberate misuse of heat source or a fire of an incendiary nature.”

    What is the difference between “intentional” and “arson”?

    Both terms refer to a fire that was started deliberately. For “intentional,” that is the whole of the definition. For “arson,” there are two other elements: (a) to some extent, the firesetter intended not only the fire but the harm caused by the fire, and (b) by applicable legal standards, the firesetter was capable of forming a criminal intent. In many jurisdictions, for example, there is a minimum age below which an individual cannot be charged with arson. In some jurisdictions, a person can legally destroy his or her own property, including a house.

    What data sources are used in this report?

    Several data sources are used in this analysis. National estimates for this analysis are derived from the United States Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting Systems (NFIRS) and the NFPA’s annual fire department experience