MCFRS News Release
Arson Awareness Week and News Briefing
|Date:||Thursday, May 6, 2010|
|Location:||Public Safety Training Academy
9710 Great Seneca Highway
ROCKVILLE, Maryland - - Arson Awareness Week is sponsored annually by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) to focus public attention on a preventable crime with real victims in every segment of society. The theme for this year’s event, May 2 – 8, is “Community Arson Prevention” in an effort to provide communities with tools and strategies to combat arson in their neighborhoods, businesses, schools and places of worship and get more people involved in arson prevention.
According to the USFA’s National Fire Incidence Reporting System (NFIRS) data and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an estimated 316,600 arson fires are reported to fire departments in the United States annually, resulting in 7,825 firefighter and civilian injuries and cause an estimated $1.1 billion in direct property loss. In 2006 (most recent year for statistics), 10 firefighters died as a result of arson fires.
The goal of this year’s Arson Awareness Week is to focus public attention on the staggering losses associated with arson crimes. Officials emphasize that neighborhoods can reduce the likelihood of arson occurring by promoting neighborhood watches and recognizing and reporting unusual activities. “Incidents of arson, like other crimes, are often linked to economic downturns,” stated Chief Richard Bowers. “Our ongoing efforts to educate and raise citizen awareness in regard to the arson problem and increase community involvement will continue to have significant impact on saving lives and property. An informed and involved community is one of our department’s best tools against the crime of arson." If you see it, say it.
Individuals can help prevent arson by starting or being involved in a “neighborhood watch” program and by working with local fire, police and code enforcement departments to recognize and report unusual activities, removing overgrown vegetation and abandoned cars and cleaning up and securing vacant homes.
To kick off Arson Awareness Week, the Montgomery County Fire and Explosive Investigators will be hosting a one-day Vehicle Fire Investigation Conference at the Montgomery County Public Safety Training Academy on Thursday, May 6, 2010. The event, which highlights the 1998 establishment of the Stolen Burned Auto Task Force, will bring together leaders in the insurance industry, the Police Auto Theft Team and members from the MD/DC Anti-Theft Committee.
- During 2009, the Fire Investigations Section closed several high profile cases which included an arson/attempted murder homicide which occurred on Inwood Avenue in Silver Spring. This matter was adjudicated with the conviction of all three individuals.
- In November, Fire Investigators arrested an individual who had set her own house on fire on Old Coach Road in Potomac which injured other residents and a firefighter.
- In February, 2010, the home of a Montgomery County Police Officer was the target of Arson. Fire Investigators, in cooperation with local and federal law enforcement agencies, quickly developed a suspect and arrested an individual who is currently incarcerated and awaiting trial.
- MCFRS/FEI Investigators assisted Prince George’s County and ATF Investigators with an investigation of several fires which led to the arrest of two firefighters.
- Most recently, Fire Investigators arrested individuals for setting fire to the press box at the Gaithersburg High School stadium.
Total arsons investigated by FEI in 2009 (calendar year): 240 incidents with an estimated total incendiary loss of $8.5 million with a seven million dollar loss to 500 W. Montgomery Avenue (Chestnut Lodge). A total of 52 arson auto fires were investigated with an estimated damage of $289,000 and 54 individuals were arrested in 2009 for arson-related crimes.
Recent Open Cases:
- Last year unknown individual(s) set fire to and destroyed the Chestnut Lodge at 500 W. Montgomery Ave in Rockville. This fire caused over $7 million dollars in damage.
- In December of 2009, a fire was set in the Taco Mexico Restaurant at 13830 Old Columbia Pike in Silver Spring. Investigators determined that the fire was intentionally set and believe it may have been related to gang activity in the area.
- During August of 2009 unknown individuals set fire to several mailboxes and landscape resulting in brush fires in the Damascus/Germantown areas.
- In January of 2009, several fires were set in the 19000 Block of Chalet Drive in Germantown. Over the course of several nights unknown individual(s) set fire to several dumpster enclosures causing $30,000.00 in damage.
If you have any information on these crimes, please contact the Arson Hotline at 240-777-2263.