SFMO Promotes Arson Awareness WeekNationwide Campaign Aims to Prevent Arson in Vacant Structures
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) Fire Investigations Section joins the United States Fire Administration (USFA) in promoting Arson Awareness Week (May 6-12) in Tennessee. The theme of this year’s campaign is “Reducing Arson at Vacant and Abandoned Buildings.”
Vacant and abandoned buildings hurt a community’s image, but they can also result in increased criminal activity and public safety concerns. Nationwide, about 23,800 vacant residential building fires are reported each year and cause an estimated 75 deaths, 200 injuries and $785 million in property loss, according to the USFA. From 2012 to 2016, Tennessee saw 4,184 vacant structure fires, resulting in 92 firefighter injuries and over $109 million in property loss.
Worse, vacant buildings are more likely to have been intentionally set and spread beyond the building than fires in other structures, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Arson can negatively impact insurance premiums, cause a loss of business revenue, and decrease property values. Fighting arson requires a cooperative effort between fire and emergency services, law enforcement, insurance companies, and local officials to reduce the number of criminally set fires in unoccupied or idle structures. In 2017, the SFMO’s Fire Investigations Section assisted local and state law enforcement officials in 115 arson cases.
“Our fire investigators work with federal, state, and local law enforcement to help bring those who commit arson to justice, and we need the help of communities to assist in our work,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “I urge Tennesseans to help us protect Tennessee communities by reporting arson to the Arson Hotline whenever they have information related to arson.”
The SFMO and USFA reminds Tennessee residents to recognize, assess, and secure vacant and abandoned buildings in an effort to help prevent arson in vacant and abandoned buildings:
BOARD UP – CLEAN UP:
- Before boarding up a vacant building, disconnect all utilities.
- Remove any excess vegetation or garbage that could be easily ignited.
- Dispose of all sources of ignition, like flammable liquids or gas containers.
- Ensure extra measures are taken to secure vacant buildings by adding locks and boarding up broken windows with plywood or clear board.
- Establish an arson watch program. USFA has a downloadable Community Arson Prevention kit.
- Have you witnessed something you think could be arson or someone planning to commit arson? To report a suspected arson, call the Tennessee Arson Hotline at 1-800-762-3017. The Arson Hot Line is a phone line dedicate to receiving information about suspicious and incendiary fires. It is answered 24 hours a day and you may remain anonymous when providing information. Cash awards are offered for information leading to an arrest or conviction.