The Aptos/La Selva Fire Protection District reminds you that National Arson Awareness Week occurs in May each year. Arson is not a victimless crime. Arson fires kill over 500 civilians each year and cause approximately two billion dollars annually in property damage. How would you picture an arsonist? A dangerous-looking, shifty-eyed criminal…someone with an axe to grind? Maybe someone with little regard for human life, or someone with a pattern of violent behavior? Or, would you ever imagine a child?
According to the FBI, more than 50% of those arrested for setting arson fires are juveniles. In fact, juvenile arson is the fastest growing teen and pre-teen crime in the country say officials from the Santa Clara County Fire Department. It has become America's hidden epidemic. "More than 700 arson fires a day are being set in the United States by people under the age of 18," reports Dennis Johnsen, Arson Investigator for the Santa Clara County Fire Department. "Our County is not immune from the national statistics. We have seen a large increase in juvenile arson occurrences."
Tragically, many children die in the very fires they caused. According to the National Fire Protection Association, child-set fires account for the deaths of 300 children and another 3,000 are injured every year. If left untreated, 80% of juvenile firesetters will continue to repeat their dangerous actions. Education and intervention programs are the key to preventing juvenile firesetting. The Aptos/La Selva Fire Protection District offers programs for educators as well as confidential services for families seeking assistance.
Your help is needed to reduce the risk of arson in our community. If you suspect that someone you know has set a fire or experiments with fire, please contact your local fire department. Fire experimentation is not "just a natural phase" that every young person goes through. It can be as deadly as leaving a loaded gun on a counter top and intervention and education could make the difference.
If you would like more information on how you can help prevent arson or about our Juvenille Firesetter Program (residents of Aptos or La Selva Beach only, please), contact Fire Marshal Trevor Dirksen at 831-685-6690, ext. 115. You can also visit the U.S. Fire Administration's arson awareness page at: http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/fireservice/subjects/arson/arson_awareness.shtm.