May 5-11 is National Arson Awareness Week and this year's theme is "Reducing Residential Arson."
According to the National Fire Incident Reporting System, an estimated 16,800 intentionally-set fires in residential buildings occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated 280 deaths, 775 injuries and $593 million in property loss each year.
The US Fire Administration offers the following tips to help focus on safety and keep communities from becoming the target of arson:
- Illuminate Exterior and Entrances
Install lights covering all sides of the house. Motion-activated lighting, which is inexpensive, should be placed near the entrances. Interior lights on timers give the illusion that a residence is occupied.
- Clear Obstructions
Trim or remove shrubbery that blocks the view of the house from the street. During the growing season, bushes and trees may need to be trimmed frequently.
- Install Burglar and Fire Alarm Systems
Alarm devices can be inexpensively wired to transmit an alarm to the police or fire department. Check the cost of contracting with a security firm for response to alarms.
- Install Smoke Alarms and a Fire Sprinkler System
The combination of working smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers reduces the likelihood of death from fire by more than 82 percent. The most effective fire loss prevention and reduction measure for both life and property is the installation and maintenance of fire sprinklers.
- Keep Doors and Windows Locked
All external doors should be equipped with dead bolts. A simple locked door could be the deterrent that saves a house from arson. The hardware used to lock windows can sometimes be easily forced open using a credit card or other tool. The best type of window hardware has spring-loaded bolts that insert through the window frame into the wall frame.
- Clean House
Oftentimes, arson is a crime of opportunity. Remove excess vegetation and piles of leaves. Clean around your house and garage, removing unused and unneeded paper, trash, cleaning supplies, partial cans of paint and other materials that could become kindling and fuel a fire for an arsonist.
- Clean Up Vacant Homes
Secure abandoned and vacant homes, which are potential arson targets. This may include adding additional locks or boarding up broken windows or other openings with plywood.
- Remove abandoned vehicles
Most car fires are started to cover up other criminal activity or simply as an act of vandalism.
Help stop arson in Wilmington by calling the Arson Tip Line at 800.334.3000 or fight insurance fraud by calling the Insurance Fraud Line at 888.680.7684.
For more information regarding the U.S. Fire Administration's Arson Awareness Week, visit usfa.fema.gov/aaw or contact the Wilmington Fire Department at 910.341.7846.