fire marshal urges public to learn about arson prevention during
Arson Awareness Week, May 7-13
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focus for week is 'Wildfire Arson -- Preparedness and Prevention'
[MAY 9, 2006]
SPRINGFIELD -- Every day Americans experience the
horror of fire. The question is, "Are you ready?" Illinois' Office
of the State Fire Marshal is part of a national effort to increase
awareness about Arson Awareness Week, May 7-13. The theme for this
year is "Wildfire Arson -- Preparedness and Prevention."
Each year more than 4,000 Americans die and approximately 20,000 are
injured in fires, many of which could be prevented. There is an
increased risk of wildland fires because of growing development of
structures in wildland-urban areas. The Office of the State Fire
Marshal is encouraging Illinoisans to have a prevention and
preparedness plan in place if faced with wildfire arson.
important that Illinois residents think about fire prevention and
have a preparedness plan in place in case of an emergency," said
Illinois State Fire Marshal David Foreman. "Arson and other
uncontrolled wildland fires pose a serious threat to lives, property
and natural resources in our rural and suburban communities, and we
need families to get together to be prepared."
Although wildland fires generally appear to be concentrated and
receive the most media attention in the Western states, wildland
fires do occur in Illinois, causing considerable damage and fire
service man-hours to respond and extinguish these fires. According
to the National Fire Incident Reporting System, in Illinois during
2005 there were 1,983 reported incidents of natural vegetation
fires; 337 forest, wood or wildland fires; 2,813 incidents of brush
or brush and grass-mixture fires; 1,945 reported grass fires; and
1,999 other related fire incidents.
Local fire departments and law enforcement agencies can get
assistance in fire investigations from the Arson Investigation
Division of the Office of the State Fire Marshal. In 2005 the
division investigated 1,293 fires, of which 434 cases were
determined to be incendiary. These investigations resulted in the
arrest of 146 adult and juvenile suspects.
The state's arson investigators are available 24 hours a day,
seven days a week to provide assistance to communities for fire
investigations. Requests from local officials for assistance and
tips from the public are received through the 24-hour, toll-free
Arson Hotline, at (800) 252-2947. Agencies requesting assistance are
immediately connected with an arson duty investigator, who has the
authority to dispatch an arson investigator anywhere in the state
anytime, day or night. With arson investigators located around the
state, response time to any request is usually under three hours.
People calling the Arson Hotline with information that may
prevent arson or lead to the arrest of an arsonist are eligible for
a monetary award from the Illinois Arson Award Program, which is
funded by the Illinois Fair Plan and monitored by the Illinois
Advisory Committee on Arson Prevention.
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In addition to certified arson investigators from the Office of
the State Fire Marshal, the agency's canine units are often asked to
assist with fire investigations when arson may be suspected. The
canines are trained to detect minute traces of accelerants that may
be used in arson fires and can lead investigators to a specific
location where physical samples can be secured, analyzed and
confirmed by special laboratories. There currently are six OSFM-certified
accelerant-detecting canines located around the state, and in 2005
they assisted with 293 fire investigations.
Here is a list of prevention and preparedness tips recommended by
the U.S. Fire Administration:
Get yardwork done.
Your yard can be your first stand against a wildfire. You can
keep a fire from getting to your house with simple landscaping
Rake and remove all
Clear dead brush
and dense vegetation. Store your firewood pile and other things
that burn easily at least 30 feet to 100 feet away from the
Screen under your
porch and other open areas with wire mesh no larger than
plants with high moisture content. They are more fire-resistive.
Mow your lawn and
keep plants at least 12 to 18 inches away from the house.
Keep your gutters,
eaves and roof clear of leaves and other debris.
If hoses and adequate water are available, leave sprinklers
on roofs and anything that might be damaged by fire.
Have these disaster supplies on hand in case of an
Flashlight with extra batteries
First-aid kit and manual
Emergency food, nonelectric can opener and water
Cash and credit cards
Extra clothing and sturdy shoes
Arson Awareness Week is a national effort by the
Administration and the International Association of Arson
Investigators. For more information on Arson Awareness Week, please
[News release from the
Office of the State Fire