fire marshal seeks to reduce arson fires through public awareness
during Arson Awareness Week, May 6-12
theme is 'Vehicle arson: Who pays for this crime?'
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[May 08, 2007]
SPRINGFIELD -- Each year,
vehicle arsons account for nearly 20 percent of all arson cases
nationwide, making arson the second-highest cause of vehicle fires.
Illinois Fire Marshal Dave Foreman says his office is joining with
organizations across the state to increase public awareness of arson
prevention during Arson Awareness Week, May 6-12. This year's
awareness week theme is "Vehicle Arson: Who Pays for this Crime?"
"Vehicle arson fires can be deadly, but even those that don't cause
physical injury end up being costly to all of us when insurance
rates rise because of these crimes," Foreman said.
36,000 intentionally set vehicle fires were reported nationwide, an
increase of 18 percent from the previous year, according to data
from the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection
Association. In addition, vehicle arson accounted for $165 million
in property damage, an increase of 25 percent from the previous
In Illinois during 2006, the Office of the State Fire Marshal's
Arson Investigation Division assisted local officials with 1,501
fire investigations, of which 110 cases (7.3 percent) were vehicle
"We know of an arson-for-hire ring in another state in which
debt-burdened car owners sought to relieve their financial pressures
by arranging for their vehicles to be driven away and set afire. The
car owners then filed claims with their insurer for the cost of the
vehicle. This insurance fraud results in higher payments for the
law-abiding car owners," said Michael T. McRaith, director of the
Division of Insurance in the Illinois Department of Financial and
Professional Regulation. "When an insurance company has too many
unplanned-for losses, ordinary consumers pay more to cover those
The state fire marshal said his office is working to increase
public awareness about arson prevention and encouraging people with
information about suspected arson fires to report it to authorities.
"We all need to work together to stop these types of criminal
activities," Foreman said. "I urge anyone with information about any
arson crime to contact the toll-free Arson Hotline and help us put
arsonists behind bars -- where they belong." The 24-hour, toll-free
number is 800-252-2947.
People calling 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
[to top of second column]
Tips for preventing vehicle arson:
Park your car in a
Use a secure parking
lot for extended periods.
Close all windows.
Remove the key from
Always lock doors,
truck and tailgate.
Report abandoned cars
to the police.
If there is a vehicle fire, you should:
Get yourself and
others out of the vehicle.
Call the fire
department at 911 and tell the location of the fire.
Stay away from the
vehicle. Do not try to retrieve personal property.
Never put yourself in
danger attempting to extinguish the fire yourself.
Do not open the hood
or trunk if you expect a fire under it.
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. The state's 19
arson investigators are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week
to provide assistance to communities for fire investigations.
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.
In addition to the certified arson investigators with 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 eight OSFM-certified
accelerant-detecting canines located around the state.
Arson Awareness Week is a national effort by the U.S. Fire
Administration and the International Association of Arson
Investigators. For more information on Arson Awareness Week, visit
Office of the State Fire
Marshal news release received from
Illinois Office of
Communication and Information]