Arson is the second most common ignition source for fires in Ontario, according to the Fire Marshals Office 16% of all structure fires between 2003 and 2007 were the work of arson. Only cooking which slightly edged out arson at 19% was responsible for starting more fires. Fortunately deliberately set fires register a low number of civilian injuries in relation to the actual number of fires attributed to arson, this is because arsons often target vacant or abandoned buildings. Throughout past downturns in the economy arson rates have always increased, arson almost becomes epidemic in very depressed economies, but why? Is it the desperation of failing business owners trying to salvage their financial woes by resorting to fraud, or just the increased opportunity for mischief due to the presence of more vacant properties? More than likely it is a combination of these factors. Insurance companies are no doubt getting ready to deal with an increase in arson cases due to the oncoming economic recession. Considering that the economy was strong between 2003 and 2007 when these statistics were last taken, it makes one shudder to think of the possible number of cases we could be dealing with in the near future.
Any fire with a large financial loss is subject to investigation, the Fire Marshalls Office automatically conducts one if losses are estimated to be in excess of $500,000 or if the circumstances appear to be suspicious. Fire investigative techniques have also benegrotted greatly from advances in science, testing for substances such as accelerants is now the job of lab technicians who can determine compounds from very small samples. Acquiring the proper samples is the responsibility of a trained fire investigator who can determine ignition sources by studying the burn patterns at the fire scene. In Ottawa, another method is also used to find accelerants, the Ottawa Fire Service has a device that is able to quickly scan a fire scene and detect the smallest trace of a number of different accelerants. This device is Fiesta; a small female black lab. Fiesta was trained as an accelerant sniffing dog by the ATF in the United States and actually resides right here in Russell. Fiesta’s handler is Captain Ian Wade of the Ottawa Fire Service, Captain Wade has brought Fiesta to the Russell Fire Department to demonstrate her abilities and her skills are simply amazing.
Arson is a crime that affects all of us, insurance companies are not in the business of losing money and when their expenses escalated so do our premiums. During the upcoming months be watchful over vacant properties and look out for suspicious behavior around abandoned buildings. If you suspect a case of arson please contact the police.