Over the last decade, the risk to public safety posed by fires has grown in the United States. The change has been driven in part by the increasing frequency and severity of wildfires, which typically start either naturally or through human carelessness. Each year, however, there are also thousands of cases of arson reported in the U.S. – in which private homes or other structures, vehicles, and even grasslands and forests are set on fire deliberately. (So far, these have been the 30 most destructive wildfires in the U.S. this century.)
According to data compiled by the United States Bomb Data Center, a division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a total of 33,628 cases of arson were reported nationwide between 2017 and 2021. Over that five-year period, arson cases resulted in 447 deaths and nearly 900 injuries. The vast majority of these reported arson cases were concentrated in just a handful of states.
Reviewing data from the USBDC’s five most recent annual Arson Incident Reports, collected as part of the Bomb Arson Tracking System, 24/7 Wall St. has identified the number of arson cases in each state between 2017 and 2021 and ranked them from fewest to most. It is important to note that arson data compiled by the ATF is dependent on real-time reported incidents and likely undercounts the actual number of arson cases.
In most cases, the motive for arson is unknown or unreported. In cases where motive was identified, however, revenge, vandalism, and concealment of another crime and the most common reasons.
While many of the states with the most reported arson cases are also some of the largest by population, there are several notable exceptions. For example, Kansas, a state home to fewer than three million people, had over 1,800 cases of arson in the last five years. Meanwhile, in New York, a state with a population of over 20 million, had fewer than 700 over the same period. (Here is a look at America’s most dangerous states.)
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