ST. PAUL — Arson destroys more than buildings, it can devastate a community.
Over the past 23 years arson fires have caused 56 deaths and more than $333.7 million in property damage in Minnesota. During National Arson Awareness Week – May 5-11 – State Fire Marshal Jerry Rosendahl wants to focus public attention on a crime that affects every Minnesotan.
“Arson is devastating. It kills and injures people every year, destroys possessions and paralyzes communities with fear,” Rosendahl said. “It’s a criminal act and we all pay for it. Our home and vehicle insurance rates reflect the cost of arson.”
The theme for this year’s Arson Awareness Week is Reducing Residential Arson.
Sixty-five percent of the 318 reported structure arsons in 2011 occurred in residential properties, most commonly one- or two-family dwellings and apartments. Property damages totaled more than $5.4 million in those residential structures.
The number of intentionally set fires reported in 2011 to structures (318), grass, brush, refuse (671) and vehicles (133) was 1,122. That is up 7 percent from the previous year.
Twin Cities-area arsons and property damage totals by county for 2011:
For a list of arsons in each Minnesota county in 2011, go to the annual Fire in Minnesota report at http://ow.ly/kofAR. Arson information begins on page 22.
Arson – the fourth-leading cause in 2011 of Minnesota fires – can range from youth misusing fire to a serial arsonist in a community.
What can Minnesotans do to help reduce residential arson? They can:
- Get involved in a neighborhood watch program.
- Call the Arson Hotline at 1-800-723-2020 if you have information about a suspicious fire.
- If you have a child that demonstrates an interest in fire that concerns you, call the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division helpline at 1-800-500-8897.
SFMD Fire and Life Safety Educator Becki White encourages community members to become proactive and educate themselves about fire issues in their neighborhood.
The U.S. Fire Administration offers tips on how to safeguard homes from arson and advice on establishing a community arson watch program. Information can be found at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/aaw
“Arson can happen in any community at any time and there is something you can do about it,” White said. “The first step is awareness, then neighbors and community members can begin finding ways to eliminate this crime.”
Prevent juvenile arson
If your child shows an extreme interest in fire, or has experimented with or misused fire, it is very dangerous, even deadly. Addressing misuse of fire early can prevent a child from getting hurt or killed, getting involved in the legal system, or even becoming a serial arsonist. Youth Firesetting Prevention and Intervention teams are located throughout the state to help stop this dangerous behavior before it is too late. Call 1-800-500-8897 to be connected with a local team.
About the Minnesota Department of Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.
About the State Fire Marshal Division
The mission of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division is to protect lives and property by fostering a fire-safe environment through fire/arson investigation, code development and enforcement, regulation, data collection and public education. Data collected by the State Fire Marshal Division from fire departments statewide is analyzed and used to determine the best methods of public education and enforcement to improve fire safety in our state.
State Fire Marshal Division 2011 annual statistics
(2012 statistics will be available later this summer):
- One structure fire was reported in Minnesota every 1.3 hours
- 5,039 of a total 6,530 structure fires in Minnesota occurred in residential property, accounting for 62 percent of total financial loss.
- 67 fires were extinguished by automatic sprinkler systems, minimizing loss and potentially saving lives; 23 of them took place in residential or multifamily-dwelling buildings.