RURAL Arson Control
with NFIRS property classes. Prepare special guidance for fire and arson reporting authorities to clear up misunderstandings in the use of 901 and UCR definitions and terminology.
Revise and expand UCR guidance materials to give specific guidance on how to correctly code problematical incidents.
Such guidance should stress the pay off to departments in accurately reporting findings. State agencies should consider developing incentives to improve reporting compliance. Ensure also that each reporting agency has been pro- vided with a copy of all current guidance on the new, incident-based UCR reporting system
Provide training (including periodic refreshers) to those who fill out UCR forms.
Require certification for those completing UCR reports.
“Total Burn” Syndrome
Determining origin and cause is frequently complicated in rural areas by the extent of destruction. This “total burn” syndrome places additional pressures on rural investigators to preform at peak professional levels with minimal support.
A rural arson investigator is frequently confronted with the task of culling evidence from the remains of a structure that is largely or totally destroyed. (Indeed, fire damage in rural areas runs at least three times urban rates, according to the best available information.) A single investigator with a heavy workload does not have the time or the physical capability to dig out a building when it is “on the ground.” Both local and state investigators, therefore, need to have ready access to additional manpower and, sometimes, heavy equipment to thoroughly determine cause in this regard. investigators mentioned that small end-loaders, often referred to as “Bobcats,” can prove particularly valu- able in certain applications.
Investigators in two of the four sites stated that they encountered practical difficulties when they approached volunteer fire departments for manpower needed to dig down through the rubble to the expected area of origin. This often means that in the absence of some strong indication of arson the investigator, lacking the resources to move and examine debris, will perform only a perfunc- tory investigation.
Given that arson appears to be most frequent in economically depressed areas, one can justifiably ask how jurisdictions that are already money-short will be able to fund the necessary labor and equipment for competent investigations.