Over the last few months, several fires in vacant or abandoned buildings have been intentionally set in Petersburg. It is as if this is an arsonist with a conscience, considering the type of buildings that he or she is choosing to light off. Wikipedia says arson is “a crime of intentionally, deliberately and maliciously setting fire to buildings, wildland areas, abandoned homes, vehicles or other property with the intent to cause damage or enjoy the act.” Another important term is pyromaniac, defined by Webster’s as “an irresistible impulse to start fires.”
An arsonist sets fires for many reasons, including: to conceal another crime; for the personal stimulation or enjoyment; to make a point; to receive insurance money; and to lure firefighters, medics and police officers into a trap.
These are just a few of the reasons that an arsonist sets fires. The problem is that people’s lives are in danger until the criminal(s) are apprehended and stopped. A person may think that fires in an abandoned or vacant building will not hurt anyone, but firefighters and citizens are vulnerable to injury or death every time one of these fires is set.
Arsonists look just like you or me, with one exception, they have a serious problem. There is a type of arsonist that it pains me to even mention, but that is the arsonist with a fire service background. Whether it be the glory that they receive for getting to fight fires, overcoming boredom or trying to make a point, there have been, even in my years on the job, firefighters who have intentionally set fires. You may remember arson fires on the Eastern Shore. One or both arsonists had a fire service background. Whoever this is, he needs to be stopped.
Firefighters and fire investigators have their work cut out for them. It is as much their job to catch and stop an arsonist as it is to fight every fire that occurs in a jurisdiction. The problem is not just a fire service problem; it is a community problem. In many cases, the only way that an arsonist will be apprehended is with the help of citizens who see something suspicious and tell the authorities. Firefighters must be vigilant in their observance of details. Where was the fire on arrival? Is there a person who seems to be at every fire? This is a challenge for any jurisdiction, but I have faith that with the community’s help, fire investigators will figure this out.
As stated, we all need to be especially vigilant when an arsonist is on the loose. I believe that someone has seen or heard something. Your information could break this case. An arsonist is dangerous to everyone, even though his or her fires have been to abandoned or vacant structures. As stated previously, firefighters’ and citizens’ lives are in danger every time one of these fires occur.
Stay vigilant and watchful and say something if you see something, even if you don’t know if the information will be helpful.