Criminals set fires to cover up ‘theft, burglary, or murder,’ officials say; Arson cases on the rise

For National Arson Awareness Week, officials urged vigilance after witnessing an uptick in fires set to conceal other crimes.

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Ohio State Fire Marshal urged people to remain vigilant after receiving reports that arsons were on the rise. What made it worse was that criminals were setting fires to cover up other crimes, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Commerce claimed.

“Arson is a destructive act, which involves setting fire to property, and can result in devastating consequences, including loss of life, property damage, and economic losses,” the spokesperson said. “Arson attacks have been carried out against individuals, businesses, and even entire communities.”

In 2022, 385 of the 953 fires, or 40 percent, were deemed arson, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Fire and Explosion Investigation Bureau, a law enforcement agency that investigated the origin and cause of a fire. This was an 18 percent increase from 2021.

In 2023, 147 of the 385 fires, or 38 percent, were intentionally set.

As a result, State Fire Marshal Kevin Reardon stressed the importance of reporting suspicious activity as National Arson Awareness Week went underway.

“The use of arson as a weapon of violence and crime concealment is a concerning trend,” Reardon said. “The economic impact of arson is staggering, with millions of dollars lost in property damage. We must raise public awareness of the dangers of arson and encourage individuals to report any suspicious activity.”

Officials believed that arson may have been on the rise because it was a criminal’s tool to destroy evidence of other crimes, such as “theft, burglary, or murder,” the spokesperson said. This made it more difficult for law enforcement to identify and prosecute those responsible.

However, the public’s reporting of these events could help catch criminals.

“Many arson cases have been solved by somebody sharing what they saw; even the smallest details can be just what our investigators need to get these individuals arrested and off the street,” Fire & Explosion Investigation Bureau Chief Josh Hobbs said.

The Blue Ribbon Arson Committee offered up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person responsible for arson.

Anyone with information was urged to contact the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office at 800-589-2728. More information could be found on their website.

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