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Arson problem getting attention

Posted at 3 p.m. on May 3, 2021

The Brillion News

MADISON – Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is bringing attention to arson and fire during Arson Awareness Week, May 2-8, 2021.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) houses the State Fire Marshal’s Office and an Arson Bureau, with special agents that are called upon by local law enforcement and fire departments to assist with the investigation of fires and/or explosions involving unknown or suspicious circumstances.

Fire and explosion incidents frequently involve substantial property loss and may involve serious injury or death. According to key findings in the National Fire Protection Association’s 2019 fire loss data, local fire departments in the United States responded to an estimated 1.3 million fires that caused roughly 3,700 civilian fire deaths and 16,600 reported civilian fire injuries.

Property damage was estimated at $14.8 billion[1]. These types of incidents can be devasting for a family and can cause considerable stress on a community, particularly when the incident was a result of an intentional act such as arson.

“Wisconsin DOJ’s Arson Bureau is a critical resource for law enforcement, fire departments, and victims across the state,” said Attorney General Kaul. “When a possible arson has occurred, the expertise of fire and explosion investigators can play a key role in the investigation.”

As deputy state fire marshals, special agents use the scientific method to conduct investigations of fires and explosions to determine the origin and cause of the fire and/or explosion. Deputy state fire marshals may qualify as a fire science expert witness and provide testimony in a court of law.

In addition, many cases that the State Fire Marshal's Office investigates are linked to other crimes such as fraud or homicide.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal has one ignitable liquid detection canine, trained to alert in areas of fires that may contain potential accelerants.

The arson dog and his handler are certified by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and used by DCI agents and local law enforcement officers during their investigations both in-state and nationally.

There are many arson cases that remain unsolved because investigators need more information. The State Fire Marshal’s Office requests the public’s help by reporting to the Arson Tip Line maintained in partnership with the Wisconsin Arson Insurance Council. Individuals with information can call the toll-free tip line at 800-362-3005 and anonymously provide a tip or information. Should the information lead to the arrest and conviction of a subject, the caller could be eligible for a reward up to $5,000.

Arson Awareness Week

Each year for Arson Awareness Week, the U.S. Fire Administration gathers and shares information to raise awareness of arson and provides individuals with strategies to combat these problems in their community. This year highlights critical actions that first responders must take to help ensure a safe response to arson fires during civil unrest incidents.


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