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Arson awareness campaign to commence

By Staff | May 2, 2013

An estimated 16,800 fires are intentionally set in residences nationwide each year, with 41 percent of those occurring within vacant buildings.

Each year these fires result in an estimated 280 deaths, 775 injuries and $593 million in property loss, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

National Arson Awareness Week runs Sunday through May 11.

The theme this year is “Reducing Residential Arson.”

“What we’re trying to do is draw attention that arson is still very much alive,” Battalion Chief Alan Carter, of the Cape Coral Fire Department, said.

Carter is one of the team leaders with the Lee County Fire-Arson Task Force. Re-established in 2000, the group serves as an extension of the State Fire Marshal’s Office and Department of Agricultural Law Enforcement.

It brings members and agencies together to assist in fire and explosion investigations of structures, vehicles, wildland and personal property. The Cape fire department is one of approximately 20 participating agencies.

“Our initial goal is the cause and origin – seeing if it’s an incendiary fire,” Carter said. “Every district in Lee County has had arson at one point.”

In recognition of National Arson Awareness Week, the task force will have a display set up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 11 at the Miromar Outlets in Estero. It will have incendiary devices from past arson fire investigations.

Members of the task force will be on hand with educational materials.

The public can help to reduce residential arson by being alert to situations.

“Anyone that sees something that’s out of place or suspicious – do not hesitate to contact local law enforcement,” he said, noting that a big help recently in arson cases has been surveillance cameras set up at homes.

“Every month we always have some type of incendiary fire,” he added of the Cape specifically.

An incendiary fire is intentional, with the goal to do harm or damage.

“It can range from wildland fires, all the way through home fires and vehicle fires,” Carter said. “We’ve had every range of incendiary fires.”

The city recently, however, has experienced a slowing down.

“We’re seeing a little bit of a decrease in the incendiary fires,” he said.

According to Carter, just a couple of years ago the Cape was second in the state for the number of incendiary fires, specifically residential ones.

The U.S. Fire Administration reported that the motivations behind the burning of residences are curiosity, vandalism, concealing another crime, excitement, revenge, and insurance fraud or arson for profit.

For more information about arson, visit online at: www.usfa.fema.gov.