Arson Prevention and Fire Safety Measures

Arson is the leading cause of fires in the US, and it’s a terrible crime that destroys lives and businesses. Here are a few simple things you can do to protect yourself from not only arson, but accidental fires as well.

“An arsonist can be a pyromaniac, a professional criminal “torch,” or just kids who get a thrill out of setting fires,” I recall Doug Morgan, a group supervisor with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), telling me a while back.

“It’s a puzzling crime,” Morgan added.

Morgan went on to explain that the most common tool of the arsonist is a “Molotov Cocktail,” which is simply a bottle of gasoline with a wick. Arsonists will also pour gasoline on a property and then ignite it.

Arson is the leading cause of fires in the United States. The National Fire Protection Association reports that in 2007 there were 32, 500 arsons in the U.S. and the arsons caused 295 deaths and $733 million in damage.

Seven school buses were set ablaze this past weekend at North Brandywine Middle school in Pennsylvania. The fires occurred about two miles from Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where 66 cases of arson were committed since 2008.

Arson has damaged scores of homes and businesses in Coatesville, a former steel town located 35 miles West of Philadelphia. To date the damage is estimated at $3.5 million and dozens have been left homeless in the town of 12,000 people.

Two people have thus far been arrested, and they are suspected for some, but not all of the arson fires.

The ATF and the Chester County Arson Task Force announced the arrest of Mark Gilliam, 20, on the federal charge of attempting to commit arson of the Happy Days Family Bistro in Thorndale, PA. Arson of property in interstate commerce is a federal crime.

The Task Force also announced the arrest of Roger Barlow, 19, on state charges for nine counts of arson that occurred in Coatesville between January 2nd and February 3.

“ATF is bringing all of its resources and expertise to bear in this investigation,” said Mark Potter, the special agent in charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “A multi-agency task force has been assembled here in Coatesville that has some of the best and most experienced arson investigators in the country. Those responsible for the fires will be brought to justice.”

A $20,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the Coatesville arsons.

Arson is a terrible crime that ruins lives, homes and businesses. There are a number of security measures you can take to protect your home and business from arson.

For starters you should remove trash and debris from the front and back of your business. Don’t leave out combustible material like wood crates and pallets. Arsonists will use the trash and debris as kindling. Ideally, your trash should be stored in a locked container.

If you have chemicals and flammable material in your place of business, be sure to properly store them. The material should also be in a secure place.

Your business should also be well lit at night. Lights and cameras that cover your property will discourage arsonists and other criminals. Your business should also be burglar-proof to prevent an arsonist from entering to set a fire. To be safe you should install a burglar and fire alarm system. You should also install smoke detectors and have a fire extinguisher on hand. These are essential to fire safety.

You should have a fire safety plan for your home and business, and you should hold drills at least four times a year. Contact your local fire department and they will assist you with your plan and drills, and they’ll help you train your employees on arson prevention and fire safety

If you have a home-operated business, don’t assume your homeowners insurance will cover you business losses in a fire. Check with your insurance agent.

Lastly, you should be observant and report any and all suspicious activity to the police.

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