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Protecting Houses of Worship Against Arson

Each year from 2020 to 2022, an estimated average of 1,300 fires in places of worship were reported to fire departments in the U.S. These fires resulted in an estimated annual average of $74.6 million in property loss. The leading cause of fires in places of worship was cooking (33%), but intentional actions accounted for an additional 15%.

Did you know:

A simple locked door could be the deterrent that saves a congregation from experiencing arson.

The fire service can help communities reduce the occurrence of arson and reduce its devastating effect by making residents aware of the following measures to safeguard their church, mosque, synagogue, temple or chapel.

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Protect houses of worship:

Illuminate building exterior and entrances. Place motion-activated lighting near entrances. Install lights to cover all sides of the building. Put interior lights on timers.
Clear obstructions and excess vegetation. Trim or remove shrubbery that blocks the view of the building from the street. Remove excess vegetation and piles of leaves from around the outside of the building.
Install smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system. The most effective fire loss prevention and reduction measure for both life and property is the installation and maintenance of fire sprinklers.
Keep doors locked. Equip external doors with code-compliant hardware and secure them when the facility isn't occupied. Limit and track which members of the congregation have keys and alarm codes.
Keep windows locked. Use window hardware with spring-loaded bolts that insert through the window frame into the wall frame.
Clean inside to remove unneeded paper, trash, cleaning supplies, paint cans and other materials that could fuel a fire for an arsonist.

Social media graphics and stock photos

social media card: use fire extinguishers on small fires only


Pictographs can help overcome literacy barriers by communicating messages with pictures. Our pictographs will help you to communicate fire and arson prevention messages to your community.

escape plans
Keep lit candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn
When you use candles, place them in a sturdy, safe candle holder that will not burn or tip over.

Help congregations plan a safety day

Work with local houses of worship to plan a Fire Safety Day. Here are some ideas for activities to include:

Fire safety visit

Teach the congregation about:

  • Fire extinguisher use.
  • Candle use in services and candle alternatives, such as flameless candles.
  • The importance of an automatic fire sprinkler system.

Inspect for:

  • 2 ways out of every room, e.g., devotion area, study room, kitchen, library, etc.
  • A posted and visible fire escape plan.
  • Placement of smoke alarms, including alert devices for people who are hard of hearing.
  • Cracked or damaged electrical cords and overloaded extension cords or wall outlets.
  • Child locks on cabinets used to store dangerous items, such as poisons, cleaners, matches and lighters.
  • Deadbolt locks that can be easily unlocked by all members of the congregation, especially children and people with disabilities, from the inside without a key.

Security check

Encourage the congregation to work with their local police department to identify security weaknesses.

Clean-up day

Many of the risks, hazards and safety concerns identified during fire safety and security activities can be fixed during a clean-up day at a house of worship. Specific tasks include trimming trees and shrubbery, cleaning windows, and removing all possible items that can start a fire, like flammable liquids, things that can burn and trash.