The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is raising awareness about arson as this week marks Arson awareness week. In 2021, the OSFM arson division closed 41 cases with an arrest. the theme for this week's arson awareness week is Arson in Homeless Communities: Engagement-Education-Outreach.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, municipal fire departments in the US responded to an average of 52,260 intentionally set structure fires between 2014-2018. These fires caused an estimated 400 civilian deaths, 950 civilian injuries, and $815 million in direct property damage each year. 3 out of every 5 intentional structure fires occured in residential properties and most of those fires involved homes. In 2021, OSFM Arson special agents responded to 1,053 investigations and canine teams assisted in 202 investigations.
State Fire Marshal Matt Perez says that he encourages fire departments to work together with law enforcement partners to educate members of their communities about the consequences of arson. Arson can affect not only homes or businesses but can spread and impact a larger area.
Some tips that can help reduce the risk of arson include keeping leaves, firewood, overgrown brush, and shurbbery away from buildings. You can also keep doors and windows locked when a building is unoccupied. Make sure to board up abandoned buildings. Store all flammable liquids, report suspicious activity, and if you suspect a child is setting fires, notify the poper authorities. Keep matches out of reach and out of sight of children. If you know or suspect that an arson crime has been committed, contact your local fire or police department.
A statewide arson hotline can be reached at 800-252-2947. Citizens may anonymously provide information about suspicious fires that have occured or may occur. To find out more information visit www.sfm.illinois.gov.