Fighting preventable fires before they happen

West Virginia Headlines

WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – There’s an increasing trend that has security officials concerned. Arsons and incidents of fire being used as a weapon are on the rise. While it isn’t something we should panic about, we should be aware of what to look for. 

Fire as a weapon isn’t anything new.

Bill Ryan, Region 3 Director, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

However, it is being used more recently. 

That’s why the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is sounding the alarm, and making sure the public knows what should make them alert authorities whether they’re at large gathering places, or even in areas critical to their community. 

Law enforcement or public safety at any level can only be so many places at one time, so everyday citizens, our private citizens out there, are just as much a part of our security plan as anything.

Bill Ryan, Region 3 Director, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

It goes back to the old adage, if you see something, say something. If you’re in a crowded place, here’s what should alert you if you see it:

  • Damage to fire protection systems or equipment
  • Suspicious or unattended items, especially if they are flammable
  • Someone trying to access floorplans and questioning entrances, exits, ventilation systems or plans of where groups of people will be
  • Unusual quantities of flammable or combustible materials
  • Social media posts promoting “fire as a weapon” or discussing carrying out an attack

CISA advises those planning large-scale events to take precautions too like involving local first responders in creating an emergency plan, having clearly marked fire exits and training employees to be alert for suspicious behavior.

Arson-related incidents aren’t just causing harm on a national scale, they can also be a problem closer to home. That’s why fire investigators explain it’s important to be alert, and know what to do if you see something suspicious.

Strangers in the neighborhood that they’re not used to seeing in that area, accumulation of probably ordinary combustibles, which would be trash, cardboard, anything where it shouldn’t be.

Capt. Bernard Davidson, Chief Investigator, Wheeling Fire Department

The Wheeling Fire Department said in local communities there’s usually one particular target for arson. 

Know where their abandoned buildings are, if there’s any damage. If they see people going in and out of these abandoned buildings, call the police department.

Capt. Bernard Davidson, Chief Investigator, Wheeling Fire Department

No matter when it happens investigators said using fire as a weapon is always a personal and violent crime. 

It’s always a problem. Even if it’s just one in 10 years arson is an issue.

Capt. Bernard Davidson, Chief Investigator, Wheeling Fire Department

CISA has plenty of online resources about many prevention measures. Find them at cisa.gov. They also have a “Fire as a Weapon Action Guide” that you can read here.

If you are in Wheeling, call 304-234-3770 with any arson-related information. Residents can also call any firehouse, fire headquarters, or police, who will forward the information to investigators.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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