White, Ellen Emerson. Profiling arsonists and their motives: an update.
Fire Engineering. Vol 149 No 2 (March 1996). p 80-82+.
Abstract: This article discusses the motives and profiles of an
arsonist. This article contains a great deal of information-more than can
be contained within this brief summary.
The pyromaniac is the first type of arsonist discussed. It is one of
the least common, yet well known type of arsonist. The activities of a pyromaniac
are usually random actions.
The revenge fire setter is thought to be one that has difficulty controlling
their anger and uses fire setting as an outlet. The target is always known
to the fire setter or has a connection of some sort. Destruction in these
fires is significant since that is the objective of the fire setting. One
specialist pointed out that these are an easy motive to pick out because
there are incidents leading up to it.
Arson-for-profit fires also have a high level of damage since this is
also the objective of these fires. The fire setting mechanisms may be more
complex. Solving these fires may involve following a paper trail since the
reason for the fire is so that someone will have a financial gain.
The hero arsonist is one category that, unfortunately, is the one in
which fire fighters fall. They may set fires to be the hero, to overcome
boredom or to become accepted, to list a few motivations. Security guards
who set fires are also known to fall into this category. Ego is a driving
force behind these arsonists.
The thrill seeker arsonists tend to adolescents. The fire setting mechanism
is relatively simple, and the fires may be accompanied by theft or vandalism.
Often these fires are set by groups rather than individuals.
The juvenile firesetters, who are predominantly male, are broken into
three categories-under eight, nine to 12 and 13 to 17 years of age. Often
they come from a broken home or are learning disabled, hyperactive or socially
Arson for crime concealment is set by an arsonist who is not motivated
by the fire itself, but that it can conceal the primary crime that was committed.
The terrorist arsonist generally works in groups and are looking to take
public credit for their actions. The fire setting mechanisms are complex
and the fires are premeditated.
There are several tables in this article that list indicators of arsonist
and arson categories. There is also an extensive reference bibliography
at the end of the article.
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