An arson investigator examines a fire scene to determine the origin of the fire and source of ignition and to gather evidence to determine if the fire was accidental or intentional. Understanding the suspected arsonist's possible motives is beneficial in aiding the investigator and the fire department investigation. By examining the suspected arsonist's profile, the investigator can identify the attributes, characteristics, motives, and patterns of the life history of an arsonist. The investigator can then create a hypothesis related to where the arsonist may strike again and what type of individual may be starting these fires. Fire prevention programs targeted at young children are a key tactic in preventing children from becoming possible future fire setters.
"Arson isn't just about fire. It is about people. In some cases it is about people interacting with their environment. In others it is people interacting with other people in groups. In a few cases it is about people and their psychological disturbances.
Fire affects a community in numerous ways. For example, when a fire destroys a commercial or an industrial occupancy, a number of people and businesses are affected by the loss: the occupancy's employees, the suppliers to the lost concern, the businesses and their suppliers that did business with the now laid-off employees; and community tax base and sales tax revenue. In addition, fires in older communities usually result in business and industry's looking elsewhere for cheaper land and lower building costs.
Individuals may set fires for personal reasons, including revenge or in response to labor problems. Juveniles may set fires for the thrill of it or as an act of vandalism. Arson may be used to conceal homicides. "It is estimated that at least half of all fires are set deliberately. Vandalism is suspected of being the primary motivation, and juveniles are the most frequent perpetrators
On September 15, 2003, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) Arson Task Force issued a statement looking for an individual responsible for setting fires in the Washington, D.C. and Maryland area. The statement describes how the individual may be under extreme stress, may have had a rough time while growing up, may have a lot of anxiety, and may feel excitement during these fires.
How does the ATF know these traits of a fire setter? "By identifying the attributes, characteristics, motives, and patterns of the life history of serial arsonists to assist in producing criminal investigative analysis consisting of characteristics and traits of such offenders."3 This information is compiled through computer databases, including the ACMS (Arson Case Management System), AEWS (The Arson Early Warning System), NFIRS (National Fire Incident Reporting System), and UCR (Uniform Crime Reports).
The ACMS "consists of several databases used in the daily operation of an arson investigation unit. These daily files consist of basic offense reports, master name indices, case solvability factors, and other facts or circumstances that make a case potentially solvable." (1, 11-9) The AEWS is a collection of computer analysis routines that have been successful in predicting the time periods and profiles of arson-prone areas. Factors that cause concern include "businesses with a history of unpaid taxes, previous structure fires, continuous fire code violations, and a record of unreleased liens or other attachments.
NFIRS provides standardized fire incident, firefighter, and civilian casualty da