PIKESVILLE, MD (April 29, 2011) â€“ Governor Martin Oâ€™Malley along with the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the U. S. Fire Administration (USFA) have teamed up this year to promote arson awareness around Maryland. May 1 â€“ 7, 2011 has been designated National Arson Awareness Week to raise consciousness of this most costly of all fires and illustrate the steps that are being taken to combat it. This yearâ€™s theme is: â€śWorking Together to Extinguish Serial Arson.â€ť
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), estimated averages of 53,600 intentional fires were reported to fire departments in the United States each year during 2003 â€“ 2007. These fires resulted in approximately 387 deaths and an estimated 1,141 injuries to civilians annually. In 2007, three firefighters died and 6,100 firefighters were injured while on duty, at the scene or responding to intentional fires. In addition to needless injury and death, anestimated $922 million in direct property loss occurs each year.
In Maryland, during the year 2009, there were 1,758 arsons reported, resulting in the estimated loss value of property damage at 24 million dollars. A total of 502 persons were arrested for arson in 2009. Fifty-three percent of these persons were juvenile offenders. Arson robs communities of its most valuable assets â€“ lives and property. Arson destroys more than buildings: it can devastate a community, resulting in the decline of the neighborhood through increased insurance premiums, loss of business revenue, and a decrease in property values.
Communities can develop a Watch Program, partnering with their local fire department, law enforcement, insurance providers, business leaders, churches, and local community groups. Neighborhoods can reduce the likelihood of arson occurring by promoting neighborhood watches and educate people about recognizing and reporting unusual activities along with implementing improved internal and external security for homes and businesses. State Fire Marshal William E. Barnard recommends several steps that can be taken to reduce the incidence of arson:
- If you know or suspect that an arson crime has been committed, contact the Arson Hotline at: 1-800-492-7529.
- Report suspicious activity near houses and other buildings to the local police and support Neighborhood Watch programs.
- Keep leaves, firewood, overgrown brush and shrubbery, as well as, other combustibles away from buildings. Donâ€™t make it easy for an arsonist to start a fire or easy for an outdoor fire to spread to a building.
- Keep doors and windows locked when a building is unoccupied. Remember to avoid using double cylinder deadbolt locks without a key nearby, bars without a quick release mechanism, or other security measures that could trap a person in a building with a deadly fire.
â€śIf we expect to effectively address arson in our communities, every citizen must participate in combating this horrible crime. Citizens of Maryland must understand the impact arson has on our communities and cooperate to prevent arson by reporting suspicious persons and activities that may result in the crime of arsonâ€ť stated Fire Marshal Barnard.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal is an agency of the Department of State Police dedicated to helping protect citizens from fire and explosion through a comprehensive program of education, inspection, investigation and fire protection engineering. For more information on fire safety call 1-800-525-3124 or log onto our website at: www.firemarshal.state.md.us.