The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is raising awareness about arson and the seriousness of this crime, while educating Illinois residents about the true cost of arson and it’s impacts on individuals and communities. The theme for Arson Awareness Week 2022 (May 1-7), Arson in Homeless Communities: Engagement – Education – Outreach.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 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. The incidence of these fires typically peaks in March and April and again in July. In 2021, OSFM Arson Special Agents responded to 1,053 investigations and canine teams assisted in 202 investigations. In 2021, the OSFM’s Arson Division closed 41 arson related cases with an arrest.
The OSFM Arson Division consist of seven Accelerant Detection Canines and 17 Special Agents who aid and assist fire and police department across the state.
“I strongly encourage fire departments to work together with law enforcement partners to educate members of their communities about the serious consequences of arson,” said Illinois State Fire Marshal Matt Perez. “These intentionally set fires not only can impact the homes or business that are targeted but can spread and impact a larger area. Through education and community awareness arson fires can be reduced dramatically, if you see something, say something.”
A statewide Arson Hotline, (800) 252-2947, has been established so that citizens may anonymously provide information about a suspicious fire that has occurred or may occur.
Arson fires are preventable through education and awareness such as the Youth Fire Setter Intervention Program. To request help from this program you can call 1-844-689-7882 or visit the OSFM website at www.sfm.illinois.gov.
These tips listed below can help reduce the risk of arson:
Keep leaves, firewood, overgrown brush and shrubbery and other combustibles away from buildings.
Keep doors and windows locked when a building is unoccupied. Board up abandoned buildings. Do not use double cylinder deadbolt locks without keeping a key nearby, bars without quick release mechanisms, or other security provisions that could trap a person in a building with a deadly fire.
Store all flammable liquids such as; paints, gasoline, and mowers in an approved storage location: locked cabinets, locked storage units, and locked garages (prevent access to kids). Also, keep away from heat sources such as furnaces and any type of heaters.
Report suspicious activity near houses or other buildings to the local police and support Neighborhood Watch programs.
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.
If you know or suspect that an arson crime has been committed, contact your local fire or police department.
For more information about arson prevention and the OSFM Arson Division, visit www.sfm.illinois.gov.