Fire Investigations
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Fire Investigations


Battalion Chief Tony Head 
IFD/IMPD Fire Investigations Commander

Indianapolis- Fire investigators from across Marion County show support for the roll out of National Arson Awareness week May 1-7 , 2016. Their message?  “We take the crime of arson seriously….and so should you.  Help us help you.”  Their mission?  To engage the community in preventing the crime of arson in their neighborhood.   Investigators encouraged residents to utilize the suspicious activity reporting systems available and help investigators put the criminal activity to rest.   In our industry, arson is a community issue that we must deal with on a continual basis.  However, Indianapolis does not have a disproportionate problem with arson fires more than other similar size cities across the nation.  We believe that even one arson fire is too many.  One of the ways that we combat the crime of arson is through investigation and the other is through awareness.  This is where the public can help.  Arson has no boundaries in our community. We work together 24/7 to eradicate the crime of arson and make our city a safe place to live, work and raise a family.

From January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015 IFD: All Fires

563 Structure Fires
Other Fires

Of those  fires, which include all types, approximately 140 fires are being investigated under the classification of incendiary or undetermined.  Not all of those 140 will be determined “Arson” as the cause.  Even though a fire is ruled undetermined, the fire may remain under investigation and a suspect(s) arrested for the crime.

Millions of dollars in property and contents lost every year due to fire.

 firefighters have sustained injury on the fire ground in 2015 - It is our concern that intentionally set fires make the risk of firefighter injury even greater.

Sunday is the most common day for a fire to occur.
Thursday is the second most common day for a fire to occur.
3:00 pm to 10:00 pm is the most common time of day for a fire to occur.

IFD/IMPD Fires Investigations Section  made 23 arrests for the crime of arson in 2015.

So far….2015 #’s remain consistent with 2014 #’s with regard to arson occurrence and investigation. 2014 #’s were down from 2102. Solid Investigation and community awareness works.

ARSON is a crime - Arson is not a victimless crime.
Arson is a blight on the community and individual neighborhoods.
Arson is a danger to everyone involved.
Innocent civilians homes and lives are lost every year.

24 hour – Indy Resources for reporting suspicious activity or the crime of Arson

Crime Stoppers – 317-262-TIPS (8477) – 1-800-222-TIPS (8477)

Text “INDYCS” plus tip information to 274627 (CRIMES)

Contact the IFD/IMPD Fire Investigations office at 317-327-6700

Call the IMPD Crime Hotline 317-327-MOTA (6682):

Contact your local IMPD District Officer:

Utilize the IFD Contact us form:

Department of Homeland Security - See Something Say Something: 1-877-226-1026,-Say-Something.aspx

Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office – Fire Investigations 317-232-6435 (7 am – 3:30 pm)
or 1-800-669-7362 (After hours & Holidays)

Resources for Juvenile Fire Setters – FIRE STOP 317-327-3473 (FIRE)

Resources for Juvenile Fire Safety – Firefighters Survive Alive 317-327-6707

The Fire Stop Program has been utilized by the IFD/IMPD Fire Investigations Section as a stop gap measure to counsel young children who may show an unusual interest in fire and/or fire setting.  The program offers incident specific/age appropriate education and a fire-risk assessment at no cost to families in the IFD Service District. In recent months the program has been in process of being transitioned from the sole responsibility of the IFD/IMPD Fire Investigations Section to now include the IFD Fire Prevention Division.  The change was made after the need was identified for a more comprehensive, holistic approach to helping these at risk children and their families.

Fire and Life Safety Division Chief Fred Pervine states that “ The opportunity to bring all of the players to the table in the beginning, as opposed to the “referral link method” will help tremendously in stopping bad behavior in its tracks.  It is our hope that we will be able to follow and mentor children from the Fire Stop Program until we are comfortable that the information is being absorbed and fully understood by the child/family receiving it.”  The Division is setting in motion a plan to partner with agencies such as the courts, juvenile justice, mental health, family advocacy and schools to address the many moving parts that often times drives the bad behavior in the first place.  Children ages 13 and younger, referred to the program by IFD/IMPD investigators, will continue to receive structured counseling curriculum and education but will also receive services from mental health and family counseling from the outset.  Pervine feels that by re-structuring the program to include an intact “no broken links” approach, children who may have fallen through the cracks after counseling…before, hopefully now will not.  Pervine also states that statistics prove that “kid fires lead to adult fires.”

Personnel identified as Fire Stop counselors have received extensive training through the Juvenile Fire Setting program at the National Fire Academy and through the Fire Stop program offered by Fort Wayne Fire Department. The program will still remain cost free to the child/family unless a component of their case requires fees such as court costs. The Fire Stop program is not an alternative to those juveniles knowingly committing the crime of Arson as a result of gang activity, intimidation, reckless mischief or vandalism.  Those juveniles will still fall under the laws of the State of Indiana and if arrested may face jail time. The IFD/IMPD Fire Investigations Section and the IFD Fire Prevention Division encourage all parents, guardians or caregivers to contact Fire Stop if their child or any other child shows an unusual interest in fire or fire setting.  Don’t wait until it is too late.

NFPA Intentional Fire Study 2014

What Is An “Intentional” Fire?

The fire statistics in this analyses use detailed data from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting Systems (NFIRS). The definition of “intentional” in NFIRS 5.0 specifically includes “deliberate misuse of heat source or a fire of an incendiary nature.”

What Is “Arson”?

The Uniform Crime Reporting Program defines arson as “any willful or malicious burning or attempt to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a dwelling house, public building, motor vehicle or aircraft, personal property of another, etc.” Here, “willful” is essentially the same as “intentional,” and the rest of the definition consists of examples of types of harm that are included.

What Is The Difference Between “Intentional” and “Arson”?

Both terms refer to a fire that was started deliberately. For “intentional,” that is the whole of the definition. For “arson,” there are two other elements: (a) to some extent, the firesetter intended not only the fire but the harm caused by the fire, and (b) by applicable legal standards, the firesetter was capable of forming a criminal intent. In many jurisdictions, for example, there is a minimum age below which an individual cannot be charged with arson. In some jurisdictions, a person can legally destroy his or her own property, including a house.

Common Motives For The Crime of Arson:

Curiosity – Thrills – Personal – Intimidation – Auto theft concealment or burglary concealment – Domestic Violence - Insurance Fraud – Attention or Sympathy – Burglary – suicide – Destroy Records or Evidence – Institutional – Hate Crime – Vanity or Recognition – Protest – Societal – Homicide or Homicide Concealment - Void Contract or Lease

Pro Active Tips For Community Members To Help Eradicate Arson In Their Neighborhood:

- Get to know your neighbors
- Establish a neighborhood watch program – hold and attend regular meetings
- Get to know your District Police Officer and area fire station
- Clean up neighborhoods by removing all garbage, material, furniture and excess vegetation
- Remove all possible sources of ignition such as flammable liquids and unused gas containers
- Keep your home well lit on the exterior
- Remove Abandoned Vehicles
- Secure abandoned and vacant homes – watch for unusual or suspicious activity
- Write down descriptions of suspicious vehicles and license plates

Vehicle Arson Motivations and Prevention Tips

Tips To Prevent Vehicle Arson

Park your car in a well-lit area - Use a secure parking lot for extended periods - Close all windows - Remove the key from the ignition - Always lock doors, trunk and tailgate - Use antitheft devices - Report abandoned cars to the police - Don’t leave valuables in plain sight - Use a recovery system, such as GPS or Lojack.

Motivations Behind Vehicle Arson

The motivations behind the burning of vehicles are similar to those of other types of arson crimes.

The Most Common Motive: Revenge

According to the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, the most common motive (41 percent) for a serial arsonist is revenge. An arsonist will target the home of someone in retaliation for an actual or perceived injustice against him or her. A car is viewed as an extension of the individual and is a very personal target for revenge arson.

Concealing Another Crime

Arson is sometimes used to mask or conceal another crime, such as murder. The criminal sets the crime scene ablaze, hoping that the victim’s death will be attributed to the fire and not murder. Other crimes, such as burglary and larceny, are also commonly covered up by an arson fire.


Curiosity fires are most often set by juveniles. The misuse of fire has many variables, including age, motivation for firesetting behavior, type of fires set, ignition materials used to set the fires, and the child’s understanding of the limitations of fire. Firesetting behavior is often a symptom of the problem and may be caused by stress and crisis in children’s lives. There can be a thrill from seeing a car in flames. ”Youth firesetting“ was the focus for the 2012 Arson Awareness Week.


Most excitement fires are often nuisance fires but may escalate to vehicles. Excitement-motivated arsonists desire the thrill associated with setting the fire and relish the attention it brings. They rarely intend to injure people but don’t have the requisite knowledge to keep the fires under control. A car is an easy target, and with little effort and risk, it can create an impressive fire.

Insurance Fraud/Arson For Profit

Arson for profit is insurance fraud, a criminal method of obtaining money from the insurance policy. People purchase cars that they can’t afford and get behind in the payments. A lease was attractive at first, until they realize that the additional miles racked up will result in hefty financial penalties. Nowadays, with a combination of the economy and increasing fuel prices, setting the car on fire is seen as a quick and victimless escape. “Arson for profit” was the theme for the 2009 Arson Awareness Week.


Vandalism or the criminal offense of malicious mischief can be the result of boredom, peer pressure or even gang activity. Vehicles parked in a lot or a great distance from a residence and seemingly abandoned automobiles are attractive targets for trouble-making activities.

Vehicle arson is not a victimless crime

In addition to the higher insurance premiums passed on to innocent customers, the responding firefighters are exposed to increased dangers from the deadly mixture of fuel and fire. A Los Angeles couple was involved in an arson for profit and insurance fraud scheme. The man who set the fire was convicted of arson with great bodily injury and was sentenced to 14 years in the California State Prison system. His partner was sentenced to three years of probation for the insurance fraud charge.