Although revenge and pyromania are the leading reasons people commit arson, some cash-strapped people turn to a five-cent match and insurance fraud to try to free themselves from their financial responsibilities. But setting a house fire isn’t as easy as it seems in the movies, and people rarely pull this crime off successfully. Fire investigators are well-trained to spot the tricks of the torching trade. And insurance companies generally prosecute arsonists to the fullest extent of the law.
Arson and Insurance Fraud – Who Pays the Cost?
The impact of arson isn't limited to just a single house, its contents and the lives of those who live in it; arson is a combustible crime with far-reaching effects:
- According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), there are more than 25,000 intentionally set fires in homes each year, resulting in nearly 300 deaths, 700 injuries and $500 million in direct property damage.
- It endangers the lives of firefighters, family members and nearby residents.
- Property damage is often magnified because arson fires frequently spread to nearby dwellings.
- The average dollar loss for an intentionally set fire in a residential building is $21,320.
- The fatality rate for intentionally set residential fires is more than twice that of other residential building fires (as mentioned earlier, setting a home aflame isn’t as easy as they make it seem in Hollywood).
- Arson often results in increased insurance premiums (consumers pay the price when insurance companies investigate fraudulent claims), loss of business revenue and a decrease in property values.
5 Tips to Help You Avoid Falling Victim to An Arsonist
In addition to shining a light on this dangerous and costly crime, the USFA uses Arson Awareness Week as an opportunity to educate the public about how to avoid falling prey to a thrill-seeking firebug. Here are several practical ways you can protect your home from an intentional fire setter:
- Install Exterior Lighting: Motion-activated lighting, which is inexpensive, should be placed near the entrances. Interior lights on timers give the illusion a residence is occupied.
- Invest in Burglar and Fire Alarm Systems: Choose systems that directly transmit an alarm to the police or fire department.
- Trim or Remove Shrubbery: Make sure to remove anything that obstructs the view or walkway of your home.
- Lock Your Doors and Windows: Like most criminals, arsonists like “easy prey.” Secure your home to prevent lawbreakers of all kind from accessing it.
- Keep it Clean: Excess vegetation, piles of leaves, trash and piles of paper may seem like a simple curb appeal issue to you (and your neighbors!). But those items, in their flammable glory, are like candy to a (pyromaniac) baby. Properly discard them to prevent an arsonist from using them as a fire accelerant.
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Related blog post: Hoping For a Mild Fire Season