COLUMBUS, Ohio – In recognition of the recent National Arson Awareness Week, State Fire Marshal Kevin Reardon stresses it’s important to always maintain a safe environment to protect your home against arson, no matter where you live.
“Arson destroys more than buildings,” said Reardon. “It can devastate a community resulting in the decline of the neighborhood through increased insurance premiums, loss of business revenue, and a decrease in property values.”
The State Fire Marshal’s Fire & Explosion Investigation Bureau is a law enforcement agency tasked with investigating the origin and cause of fire, explosions and fireworks incidents in Ohio. In 2021, 180 of the 810 fires they investigated were deemed arson. So far, in 2022, 46 of the 321 fires investigated were intentionally set.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, municipal fire departments in the United States responded to an estimated annual average of 52,260 intentionally set structure fires in the five-year period from 2014 to 2018. These fires caused an estimated 400 civilian deaths, 950 civilian injuries, and $815 million in direct property damage each year. Three in five intentional structure fires occurred in residential properties and most of these fires involved homes.
Ohioans are urged to incorporate the following safety guidelines and recommendations to decrease the opportunities for arson in their communities:
Illuminate Exterior Areas and Entrances: Install lights covering all sides of the house. Motion-activated lighting, which is inexpensive, should be placed near the entrances. Interior lights on timers give the illusion that a residence is occupied.
Clear Obstructions: Trim or remove shrubbery that blocks the view of the house from the street. During the growing season, bushes and trees may need to be trimmed frequently.
Install Smoke Alarms and a Fire Sprinkler System: The combination of working smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers reduces the likelihood of death from fire by more than 82 percent.
Clean Up Vacant Homes: Secure abandoned and vacant homes, which are potential arson targets. This may include adding additional locks or boarding up broken windows or other openings with plywood. Remove abandoned vehicles. Most car fires are started to cover up other criminal activity or simply as an act of vandalism.
Keep Doors and Windows Locked: All external doors should be equipped with dead bolts. A simple locked door could be the deterrent that saves a house from arson.
Clean House: Remove excess vegetation and piles of leaves. Clean around your house and garage, removing unused and unneeded paper, trash, cleaning supplies, partial cans of paint and other materials that could become kindling and fuel a fire for an arsonist.
If You See Something, Say Something: Report suspicious activity or if you suspect that an arson crime has been committed, contact your local fire or police department. If you suspect a child is setting fires, notify the proper authorities. Keep matches and lighters out of reach and out of sight of young children.
The Blue Ribbon Arson Committee offers $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person(s) responsible for arson. Anyone with information can contact the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office at 800-589-2728.
Josh Hobbs, Fire & Explosion Investigation Bureau Chief with the State Fire Marshal urges the public to provide any information, even if they think it’s insignificant.
“Many arson cases have been solved by somebody sharing what they saw; even the smallest details can be just what our investigators need to get these individuals arrested and off the street,” he said.
Arson fires are preventable through education and awareness, additional resources are available at the State Fire Marshal’s website: com.ohio.gov/fire.
The State Fire Marshal is part of the Ohio Department of Commerce, Ohio’s chief regulatory agency. The Department is focused on promoting prosperity and protecting what matters most to Ohioans. We ensure businesses follow the laws that help them create jobs and keep Ohioans safe. To learn more about what we do, visit our website at com.ohio.gov.