Arson awareness week focuses on reducing cases of arson in vacant and abandoned buildings

The Kansas Office of the State Fire Marshal cooperated with the United States Fire Administration (USFA) in celebrating Arson Awareness Week, which would run from May 6 to May 12. The purpose of the week is to recognize, be aware, and to understand the crime of arson, one of the US’s most dangerous and costly threats to persons and property.

This year’s theme is “Reducing Arson at Vacant and Abandoned Buildings.” The USFA said that intentional acts caused 34 percent of vacant residential building fires. Meanwhile in Kansas, from 2000 to 2017, there were a total of 1,031 arson fires recorded which happened in vacant or abandoned buildings which resulted in property loss.

Arson is defined as the willful, malicious, intentional and reckless burning of property. Doug Jorgensen, Kansas Fire Marshal, said that they would utilize the week to focus on the importance of cooperating with fire and emergency services departments, law enforcement, public works, insurance companies and the justice system to prevent arson in vacant and abandoned buildings.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) said that an average of 550 arson fires per year at abandoned properties was recorded from 2007 to 2016. USFA Administrator Keith Bryan mentioned that unsecured vacant or abandoned structures create an inherent risk to firefighters who respond to the fires.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have also given grants to communities that suffered from foreclosures and abandonment. They purchased and redeveloped those foreclosed and abandoned homes, therefore assisting to the rehabilitation of communities nationwide.

Every year, US fire departmentincidents caused 75 deaths, 200 injuries, and a value of $785 million in property loss. It was advised that thes receive around 23,000 fire reports usually involving vacant residential buildings.

These reported best method to keep firefighters safe is to accurately identify, evaluate, and secure vacant and abandoned buildings. Aside from that, they also said that jurisdictions should also adopt a policy which limits the interior fire attack to incidents, where there are confirmed life hazards.