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Arson motives

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To prevent wildfire arson, it’s important to understand what motivates arsonists to commit this crime. The most common motives for wildfire arson include:

Crime concealment
Fires are set for the purpose of covering up a murder or burglary or to eliminate evidence left at a crime scene. Other examples include fires set to destroy business records to conceal cases of embezzlement and the many cases of auto theft arson where the fire is set to destroy evidence.
Motivated by excitement includes seekers of thrills, attention and recognition. Favorite targets include trash, dumpsters, vacant houses and occupied structures.
Fires set to further social, political or religious causes. Examples of extremist motivated targets include abortion clinics and animal laboratories. The targets of political terrorists reflect the focus of the terrorists’ wrath.
Offenders expect to profit from their firesetting, either directly for monetary gain or more indirectly to profit from a goal other than money. Examples of direct monetary gain include insurance fraud by liquidating property, dissolving businesses, destroying inventory, parcel clearance, or to gain employment. Targets range from personal property to commercial buildings to people.
Fires set in retaliation for some injustice, real or imagined, perceived by the offender. All types of targets, including vehicles, residential structures and property.
Malicious or mischievous firesetting that results in damage to property. The most common target is schools and educational facilities and property.
Wildland firefighter arson
There are two distinct motivations within this category. They are (1) financial — in many cases, wildland firefighters are only paid when they are working, and setting a fire brings work; and (2) hero complex — being a hero — often called vanity firesetters. In this case, firesetters set fires in order to warn others, potentially rescue trapped people, demonstrate their alertness, or save land from being burned.
For more information on this motive, see