After many years of increasing arson losses from a variety of sources in the early 1990s, the number of reported arson fires decreased annually from 85,500 in 1996 to only 31,500 in 2005. Many of these were church fires, and hardly a month passes without one suspected arson fire of a church, synagogue, or school being reported in the Firehouse magazine’s Fire Wire column, which lists the month’s major fires. Another increasing area of arson is the forest and wildfire arena, which can cause the destruction of homes and businesses in surrounding areas.

In his annual arson survey, Firehouse* contributing editor Cliff Karchmer reviewed the FBI’s Annual Preliminary Uniform Crime Report and found a continuing downward trend of reported arson fires, a drop of more than two percent between 2004 and 2005 alone. Leaving out the $33.4 billion loss of the World Trade Center fires in 2001, the losses have decreased from $1.4 billion in 1996 to a reported $664 million in 2005. Those figures include both costs of death and injury and damage to property.

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