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RURAL Arson Control


Since 1978, the U.S. Fire Administration has been the focal point for Federal arson control programs. In this capacity, the USFA has provided technical assistance, resource materials, and training programs to state and local authori- ties. As part of this ongoing effort, the USFA and the International Association of Fire Chiefs entered into a cooperative agreement to evaluate rural arson con- trol needs and to develop strategies for responding to them.

Project Approach

To develop a clear picture of the specific requirements of the rural arson control system, the IAFC conducted in-depth case studies of these systems in four rural counties. The results from visits to rural arson control programs in seven states are incorporated in this report. This project involved extensive interviews with fire, law-enforcement, and prosecutors. The culmination of the case studies in four communities was a “nominal group process” meeting at which elements of the community arson control system were represented. Attendees were asked to identify and rank specific needs of their own organizations. These needs assessments were discussed by the group and, by the end of the meeting, were prioritized.

IAFC staff reviewed the raw consensus statements to merge or eliminate dupli- cates from the four meetings. The twenty-two statements of need discussed in this report represent the essence of nearly fifty original need statements.

Arson control experts with special experience in rural arson problems were then selected to review these statements. We also asked that they evaluate and com- ment on all of the needs statements in a draft of this report. The objective was to elicit ideas about the validity of the statements, comments on possible solution options, and speak to other needs not previously identified.

Project Summary

Project findings can be summarized as follows:

Rural arson control efforts are hindered by constraints and requirements specific to rural areas. These special conditions make rural arson preven- tion, detection, and control different from and more difficult than urban arson problems.

Many challenges to the capability of rural fire departments to cope with arson detection and control are, in reality, connected to much more deep

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