Each year for Arson Awareness Week (AAW), the U.S. Fire Administration gathers and shares information to raise awareness of arson while providing communities with strategies to combat these problems. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, about 23,800 vacant residential building fires are reported each year and cause an estimated 75 deaths, 200 injuries, and as much as $785 million in property loss.
Unfortunately, we have come to understand that for many of these incidents involving vacant buildings, the fires were set intentionally.
This year's AAW theme is "Preventing Arson at Construction Sites."
Here are some tips that could help keep your community safe from arson:
Arson is not a victimless crime. Aside from the financial implications for property owners and the insurance industry, vacant and abandoned building fires cause a disproportionate share of firefighter injuries according to the National Fire Prevention Association.
Perhaps most importantly, everyone should treat this as an opportunity to discuss fire safety with their families. The two most important things we can do to prevent fire-related deaths are to ensure the presence of operational smoke alarms in our homes, and to have an evacuation plan that the entire family has practiced.
Smoke alarms can decrease the risk of dying in a home fire by as much as half. From the moment an alarm sounds, occupants may have as little as two minutes to safely exit the building.
For more information about the fire service in Pennsylvania, go to www.osfc.pa.gov, "like" the OSFC page at www.facebook.com/PAOSFC or call 1-800-670-3473.