Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Preventing Arson in Houses of Worship Webinar recording available #arsonawareness #teamJesus

Thank you for attending the Preventing Arson in Houses of Worship Webinar, hosted by ICAC on April 25, 2017.  We had a tremendous turnout for this very important and popular topic. 

You can access a recording of the session by clicking here.

We received a lot of great questions, some which we did not have time to answer, so please find below the complete Q&A report:

Are more arsons started on the exterior of the building or inside?
Interesting question – statistically most arson fires at houses of worship that result in extensive damage have an origin inside the building.  However, if a fire was started on the exterior but spread to the inside, the cause mat be listed as starting by the opening (window or door) and not on the exterior.  Also, since most fires that begin on the exterior do not breach the inside and are either extinguished or go out on their own aren’t reported as intentionally set and may result in misleading statistics.

Are there any active groups in states that are actively targeting Churches or are they generally individual(s)?
According to both ATF and FBI statistics, the arson fire are set by individuals.

Are there any special considerations for religious communities with places of worship in non-stand-alone buildings (ex. storefronts of strip malls.)?  Should fires in neighboring businesses be considered as a possible attempt to obscure nature of targeting?
Statistically, arson fires at houses of worship, whether stand-alone buildings which are much more common or in a strip-mall type setting are treated the same. Only after an investigation would it be determined that a fire was set as obscuring the actual target.

Are there certain times of the year that are of concern for higher rates of arson in houses of worship?
No, according to both the NFPA and ATF statistics, only January and March had a slight statistical significance (10% versus an average of 8.3%).

As one who follows violence at church, I have seen a disturbing trend of arsons that were intended to get news attention by fake motive (such as the Trump hater who set his own church on fire and painted “Trump” all over it. all over it, or the back arsonist who was burning only black churches after the Charleston attack by a white extremist. Are those fake-motive incidents catalogued as extremism or vandalism?
Fire investigations and reports from both the ATF and NFPA do not formally address political motivation and have no data to provide an accurate response to this query.  These politically-motivated arson fires would be classified as extremism versus vandalism in a motive category.

Do houses of worship typically take part in outreach programs with local le and fire departments? What role can federal partners play in supporting Arson Awareness Week?
Houses of worship do not routinely work with either law enforcement or fire departments which is why we recommend and emphasis forging these new relationships. Federal partners vary each year based on the theme.  The role of Federal agency partners along with non-Federal organizations is to disseminate information about AAW to their specific constituents which they have a way reaching through e-mail, social media and other releases.

Do you have a breakdown of arson or just church/ places of worship fires by state?
The NFPA does not. I can get you the ATF data but it will take about a week – please contact me directly at

How does the Pew research have a high number of arson fires in comparison to NFPA in 2011 which stated arson was 15%?
NFPA data based on all the fire departments and state fire authorities which participate in the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the annual NFPA fire experience survey. The Pew Research data came from ATF and FBI data and reports. Statistically, it's apples and oranges.

Is the ATF to be notified of all church fires or just suspicious fires?
Yes, ATF is the designated Federal Agency responsible for investigating all house-of-worship fires.  ATF policy dictates that each and every house-of-worship fire shall be fully investigated.  ATF reports on and maintains the data repository for all house-of-worship fire and bombing incidents.  Additionally, ATF provides monthly House of Worship Reports to the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

Please repeat the website that Tim mentioned.

Some churches have thrift stores as a way to make money or run donation centers. Are these considered Houses of Worship?
Not unless they are connected (in the same or adjacent building).  Read the adjudicated cases found at the website for some examples

Tim, could you please give some examples of successful arson watch programs and what it is that they did right?
Please contact me directly at and I’ll get you that info.

National Arson Awareness Week 
May 7-13, 2017

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