Awareness Week Puts Spotlight On Arson Threat

Although the number of arson fires pales in comparison to the number of drug-related crimes in the city, local police and fire officials still regard the malicious and voluntary burning of property as a costly – and potentially dangerous – crime.

In recent months, arson attacks in the city have mostly been relegated to vacant properties, which, according to Lieutenant Tom Glenn, Jamestown fire investigations supervisor, are particularly easy targets at night.

The motivation behind these attacks varies and can often prove difficult to investigate with the amount of evidence destroyed in a fire.

“(Suspects) do it mostly for thrills or even financial gain (by collecting insurance money),” Glenn said. “We’ve got to pay attention to what’s going on.”

In April, the Jamestown Fire Department conducted a joint training session with local law enforcement at the Taylor Training Center on 240 Harrison St., where forensics and fire investigators honed their collaborative skills in a mock fire.

“It went very well,” said Glenn, who ran the training session and emphasized the importance of police and fire agencies working together and understanding their respective responsibilities during a fire investigation.

Though noting that local police and fire agencies have collaborated for years, Glenn hopes the increased focus on countering arsons will start to curb, or better yet, prevent arsonists from ever reaching their first target.

Apparently, he’s not alone.

This week, New York state is joining with the United States Fire Administration, the International Association of Arson Investigators, the National Association of State Fire Marshals and the National Volunteer Fire Council in promoting Arson Awareness Week.

The theme of this year’s effort is vehicle arson, and focuses on the collaboration of police, fire, emergency and insurance officials in curbing its numbers.

“In New York state, approximately 7,000 vehicle fires are reported by fire departments each year, with property losses approaching $11 million,” said Bryant D. Stevens, New York state fire administrator. “These figures do not include the almost 2,000 vehicle fires that are reported as either under investigation or of undetermined cause. Reducing this activity through coordinated mutual cooperation will benefit all law abiding New Yorkers.”

For more information on Arson Awareness Week, visit the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control website: www.dhses.ny.gov/ofpc/resources and the United States Fire Administration website www.usfa.fema.gov/fireservice/subjects/arson/arson-awareness.shtm.