Although arson is not one of the leading threats concerning malicious damage to property, high-risk incidents are still being reported across the continent. The maintenance of fire protection components should not disregard possible arson threats which put the lives of many innocent people in danger. Pyromaniacs are prone to setting things on fire for reasons of vandalism, concealment of crime, revenge, fraud and mental illness. As much of the evidence of arson is lost in ashes, it becomes difficult for investigators to confirm cases of arson.

Firefighting companies in South Africa have investigated recent cases of arson in places including Universities, which have fallen victim to vicious fires during violent riots and protests. Examples of these are the burning of the Council Chamber at Rhodes University; the burning of a residential building at the Vaal University of Technology, and the burning of the main auditorium at the University of Johannesburg. Although it is clear that the main motive of these fires is vandalism, these unruly events may still be driven by revenge and lapses of sanity. The installation of fire protection components is essential to any structure, but people who could possibly tamper with these installations should not be ignored.

Here are a few important points to consider when investigating the source of a fire:

1. The three components that produce a fire are oxygen, a fuel source and a heat source, that will match the ignition temperature of the fuel. It is important to rule out whether or not the environment in which a fire took place matches the combination of these three components. If the environment lacks one of these three components and the outbreak of a fire is unlikely, arson may be a possible explanation.

2. Multiple points of origin is an immediate red flag. Pyromaniacs are skilled in understanding where fires should start to assure maximum damage. There are many examples of structures that are not prone to extreme fires because of confined spaces, lack of ventilation or quick fire hydrant access. If investigators find that fires have been started at various points with no viable explanation, a pyromaniac may have been on the loose.

Also, read At risk of a commercial fire outbreak?

3. The colour of the smoke and fire at the scene may give firefighters and investigators substantial evidence regarding what may have started the fire. Various substances create different colours and densities of smoke as well as flames. Investigators must identify which flammable substances are usually found within the structure before they can eliminate possible signs of arson.

4. Pyromaniacs will make sure that their plan for ultimate destruction does not fail; fire hydrants, sprinklers and other alarm systems are the enemy to these people. In order to rule arson out as a cause, investigators must ensure that none of the structure’s fire safety measures have been tampered with or rendered inactive.

Make sure that your fire protection components have been correctly installed to prevent possible arson attacks from destroying your commercial property.