A new report developed by the National Volunteer Fire Council addresses firefighter arson, including the patterns of behavior and the impact on fire departments’ reputations.
Media and police reports suggests there are more than 100 firefighter arson arrests per year, with many other incidents going un- or under-reported, said Kimberly Quiros, NVFC’s director of communications. While the number is low in comparison to the more than 1 million firefighters nationwide, the impact of these incidents is profound on the department, the community and the fire-setter, Quiros said.
“It is definitely an issue the fire service needs to deal with, but it is the kind of topic where no one wants to talk about it,” she said. “So we want to bring the issue out in the open and look at ways to prevent this from happening in order to help departments mitigate the damages that come from having a firefighter arsonist in their ranks, because it really does cause significant damage to the reputation of the department and the morale of department members.”
The "Report on the Firefighter Arson Problem: Context, Considerations, and Best Practices" aims to educate fire-service members about the issue and provides proactive approaches as well as best practices for prevention and mitigation, Quiros said. Specifically, it includes findings from a work group comprised of arson investigators and fire-service professionals who gathered data through research, news stories and interviews with individuals affected by firefighter arson.
“The report brings to light… firefighter arsonists’ motivation,” she said. “A lot of these instances are firefighters starting fires maybe because they are bored and want a fire to respond to, or they erroneously think that it would be good for their training. So I think that shows there needs to be more emphasis with new members joining about what constitutes arson.”
A series of recommendations to address and prevent firefighter arson incidents are included in the report, Quiros said. In addition, the NVFC is working on toolkit for fire departments, which will include prevention materials and resources for dealing with the aftermath of a firefighter arson incident.