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Motivations of an arsonist

Motivations of an arsonist

Arsonist is a person who sets anything on fire intentionally. This intentional act is called the arson. Generally a home or another type of structure has been targeted by the Arsonist. Arson is committed for a number of reasons, and the crime is strictly punished throughout the world because arsonist sets property and lives at risk. “In certain parts of the globe, if somebody expires in an arson fire, it is deemed to be a murder, instead of neglectful homicide or manslaughter because arsonist is considered such a reprehensible criminal. In all cases, an arsonist holds a prison term.” (Holmes & Holmes, 2008, pp. 3)

In the majority of states, arson has been extended to comprise burning arrangements in addition to dwellings, burning the own assets for unlawful purposes, and destruction caused by an explosion or a fire. Currently “if someone arson his/her house to avail the insurance benefits because the amount of insurance is higher than the actual real value of property that would be linked to arsonist” (Stewart, 2006, 15-16). Other motives for arsonist would be to bomb or burn a religious place in a hate crime, or burn the property in vengeance for a denial to sell it. If an arsonist burns down his building as a figure of cheap destruction and unintentionally sets half the neighborhood on fire that may or maybe not an arsonist, depending on the legislation of the state.

Fire by an arsonist includes the induction of a heat source that can be as unadorned as a match or as compound like dangerous chemicals with very low explosion temperatures. By the rule of legislation a fire is thought to be an arson fire when all other unintended causes have not been met. We can say that reason of a fire was arson and consequently intentional, the detective must have adequate proof the one of the issues in the arson triangle was interfered with.

Motives for Arson

The motives of that motivate arsonist vary from situation to situation and much research has been established to determine the motives of arsonists, which has allowed the Neighborhood Fire Team, to compile a list of ten broad groups of motives, drawn from current study and from the experience of group members. Such motives contain:

  1. Vandalism: This group covers intentional and willful fire setting that is “just for the sake of it” (Stewart, 2006, 18). It also contains fire setting due to dare and colleague group pressure. Vandalism motivated arson is usually spontaneous and impulsive and engages manifold executors. Schools are often the target of vandalism motivated arson, as are abandoned or empty properties and, in the experience of this project, abandoned vehicles. Unfriendly behavior fires are also often motivated by vandalism.
  2. Curiosity/ Fire Play: This group is usually utilized when the fire has been set by young kids who do not realize the hazards of fire and were playing with, for instance, discarded cigarette lighter or matches. The people concerned are generally taken onto the fire setters intersession program.
  3. Excitement: This group contains those who set fires for thrills, attention seeking, identification and sexual perversion. It can be seen already that none of these groups are clear-cut and one may lead to another: for instance vandalism may lead to the arsonist setting fires for the thrill of it; and childhood fire play may lead to setting fires intentionally for the amount of concentration it generates from adults.
  4. Revenge: This group contains fires set for individual retaliation (against a spouse, partner or other family member); retaliation against regime or other institutions: and fires which are set asretribution against rival gangs or groups or in order to intimidate. In fact, much arson has a

    component of retaliation (aware or unaware) as part of the motive. Arsons of this category are often much greater planned and carried out than other types, and may be one-off events.

  5. Crime-concealment: This is used to explain arson fires which are set in order to hide another offense or vital proof. For instance, a room that a murder had taken place might be fired by the executors in order to destroy the body and destroy the crime scene. Stolen vehicles are often set alight after being abandoned in order to try and destroy any forensic proof. (Schulz, 2007, pp. 55)
  6. Profit: This type contains insurance fraud and arson executed against a competitor to try to put them out of business.
  7. Extremist: This type contains arson perpetrated by terrorists or other extremists (animal rights activists) and also arson which happens during or as part of disturbances or other civil riot.
  8. Racial: This type is fairly self-explanatory and covers all fires which are set for reasons of ethnic tension or intolerance.
  9. Psychological illness: Neighborhood Fire Team employees have attended many incidents, both within housing units and in the wider society, where fire setting has been due to psychological illness.
  10. Serial Arson: This is where one person working alone sets a series of fires, often over a long period of time. Serial arsonists may have one or more of the other causes also involving to their fire setting behavior. (Pawson, 2006, pp. 91)

Although the causes for arson are sometimes difficult, the law is generally crystal clear: anybody who intentionally sets fire to something will be punished for it. In some areas, a fire that is caused by great negligence or disregard will also be classified as arson. The punishment for committing arson depends on the degree of the offense: how much property was damaged the total cost of the damages, and whether or not people were trapped in the fire. The intent also performs a role: whether the fire was set to defraud an insurance agency, cover up an offense, was part of a retaliation offense, or was intended to amuse or entertain the arsonist, for instance.

Most parts of the world have arson researchers, who examine the sites of suspicious fires to decide the cause of the fire and whether or not it was arson. This job can sometimes be quite complex, particularly when proof is obscured by the efforts of those attempting to put out or clean up the fire. Arson examiners use a range of methods to inspect the sites of fires containing chemical analysis of proof, the use of sniffer dogs, and simple powers of surveillance.


  • Holmes, Ronald M. & Holmes, Stephen T. (2008). Profiling Violent Crimes: An Investigative Tool. New York: Sage Publications, pp. 1-5.
  • Stewart, Gail. (2006). Crime Scene Investigations – Arson. New York: Lucent Books, pp. 15-25.

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