Gary, Gordon P.; Huff, Timothy G.; Icove, David J.; Sapp, Allen D. A
Motive-Based Offender Analysis of Serial Arsonists. Department of Justice,
Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Abstract: This study was a joint effort between the Department
of Justice, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, and The Federal Emergency
Management Agency. The research was conducted by the National Center for
the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC). The project was designed to help
arson investigators and prosecutors convict arsonists. Specifically, the
project was implemented to identify common characteristics and motives of
The NCAVC classifies arson motives into six categories: vandalism, excitement,
revenge, crime concealment, profit, and extremist. Each motivation is examined
and explained in this study. A case history of an arsonist is provided for
each type of motivation. NCAVC also conducted research on pyromania as a
motive for arson. Their research argues that pyromania may not exist. The
American Psychological Association concludes that a pyromaniac cannot be
psychotic. If this is true than a fire setter understands the difference
between right and wrong. The irresistible impulse supposed pyromaniacs claim
to have may simply be an impulse they choose not to resist.
The study focuses a section on characteristics of arsonists. The attributes
and life histories of arsonists were studies for possible similarities.
Age, sex, race, education level, and previous criminal histories were examined
for connections. The study found most arsonists were white males around
the age of 27, with a tenth grade level education and almost all had prior
arrests and convictions.
The last section presents the information from the study that is of immediate
value to fire investigators. This section is organized by motive classification
for easy reference by fire investigations.
For more information, contact:
National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime
Quantico, VA 22135