How Arson Works

In general, you can define arson as the act of intentionally burning or charring assets. A malicious property fire might involve setting fire to a building to receive insurance money. In most cases, you may understand arson as the burning of structures such as buildings, but it may also include burning vehicles, boats, personal assets, and land.

Investigators must discover the cause of the fire to show that someone committed arson. Arson is a one-of-a-kind sort of crime in that evidence can be destroyed. Nonetheless, a thorough investigation may provide enough evidence to establish the cause. As a result, you should consider every fire scene as a potential arson crime until you determine the source of the fire to be natural or unintentional.

Arson and fire investigators look at the physical characteristics of a fire scene and look for and gather tangible evidence. The investigator then evaluates the evidence to see if the fire was caused by accident or on purpose. Investigators may discover evidence such as tampered utilities, accelerants, and unique burn patterns during the scene investigation, all of which might suggest criminal conduct.

Example of Arson

Rick's store is falling apart, and he doesn't have the funds to perform the necessary repairs to bring it up to city code. There is no other source of money for him, so Rick buys a $1,000,000 insurance coverage on his property and inventory.

After taking out the insurance policy, Rick decides to set fire to his store to gain his money. After the fire is put out, investigators establish that Rick set the fire on purpose, and Rick is being charged with both insurance fraud and arson.

Arson vs. Accidental Fire

There are cases where you can't determine fire to be the result of arson. Sometimes fires are created while people try to be careful, even if they could have been inattentive. For example, Mary is making breakfast for her family when oil from a sausage splatters over her skin. Because of her hasty reaction, she causes a pot to fall, resulting in part of the oil from the pan landing on the open flame.

This sets off an unintentional fire that swiftly spreads to the drapes above. Even when Mary gets her family members safely out of the home, the house has been destroyed beyond repair. Here, she is not guilty of arson as Mary had no intention of creating a fire, and she never acted with reckless disregard for human life.

When the investigation finds evidence that you intentionally set fire, it is the task of the investigators to establish if it was accidental or a deliberate act. When the inquiry cannot identify the cause of the fire or its origin, the investigators will likely consider it "suspect" and carry on with the arson probe. It's not enough for you to be found guilty of arson in a court of law if the ingredients of arson have not been demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt. Unfortunately, this is not always a simple issue to investigate because it can be challenging to show that you set a fire on purpose.