Arson

Arson

Arson, the act of deliberately setting fire to a building, car or other property for fraudulent or malicious purposes, is a crime in all states.

Intentionally set fires caused nearly $689 million in property damage in 2011, including $88 million caused by vehicle fires and $601 million caused by fires in structures, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Church arsons, a major problem in the 1980s, have dropped significantly. Intentional fires in religious and funeral properties fell 82 percent from 1,320 in 1980 to 240 in 2002, the last time such figures were tracked. Structural fires in houses of worship caused $102 million in property damage from 2004-2008, according to the NFPA.

INTENTIONALLY SET FIRES, 2003-2012

  Structures Vehicles (2)
Year Number of fires Property loss
($ millions) (1)
Number of fires Property loss
($ millions)
2003 37,500 $692 30,500 $132
2004 36,500 714 36,000 165
2005 31,500 664 21,000 113
2006 31,100 755 20,500 134
2007 32,500 733 20,500 145
2008 30,500 866 17,500 139
2009 26,500 684 15,000 108
2010 27,500 585 14,000 89
2011 26,500 601 13,000 88
2012 26,000 581 12,500 480 (3)

(1) Includes overall direct property loss to contents, structures, vehicles, machinery, vegetation or any other property involved in a fire. Excludes indirect losses, such as business interruption or temporary shelter costs.
(2) Includes highway vehicles, trains, boats, ships, aircraft and farm and construction vehicles.
(3) Includes $400 million in property loss from an intentionally set fire aboard the submarine USS Miami.

Source: National Fire Protection Association.

View Archived Tables

  • In 2011 property loss from intentionally set structure fires increased by 2.7 percent from 2010, although the number of those fires decreased 3.6 percent. The number of vehicle fires was unchanged in 2011, but property losses fell 1.1 percent.
  • Most arson fires are started by vandals. Between 20 and 25 percent are drug related. More than one-third are set by children under the age of 18.