Eric M. Jones

There certainly are enticements for doing what you are hired to prevent...then being the hero. Firemen convicted of arson is not so rare.

I lived in a small town where the chief of police was burning doen the whole town. He always seemed to be the one turning in the alarm. It took years to figure it out, finally with outside help.

Why anti-virus companies don't sponsor hacker schools, conventions, and magazines is beyond me. My plan is to use the proceeds from my home security agency to sponsor half-way houses for ex-convicts.

Foot fetishists work in shoe stores. Why not?


Someone should do a study to determine if there is a higher percentage of pyromaniacs in the general population or in the firefighter population.


Fire starting fire fighters are far too common, and there are so many different reasons to consider as to why something so seemingly illogical (and counter-intuitive, to say the least) is so prevalent. Is it a hero complex, or is it natural that people who are drawn to fire would choose a profession in which they are around it more? And I guess now there's a monetary incentive to consider, as well. I hope somebody can do a more in-depth study about this phenomenon, because I find it really fascinating.


In Spain we all know that fact too well. After the huge amount of fires in the last decade (by the way, 90% intentioned), many brigades of fireman were hired during summer seasons. Fire devastation decreased the following year, so no brigades were hired... The next year fires came back....
One of the causes? Lots of firemen wanted to "make an statement" of how much they are needed all years, not just some!
How can you manage this??


The simple fact is that whenever people are engaged in dealing with undesirable societal behaviour as a profession (police, military, firefighters, psychiatrists et al), there will always be an incentive to stimulate the things that they are paid to control. If the incidence of this is not high enough to support their income expectations, many will effectively "create" work for themselves.

Matthew R.

Perhaps we should pay firefighters a bonus when fires *don't* happen, to incentivize them to spread the word on fire safety and prevention?


i think an in-depth study would be very interesting but how do you get someone to admit that they are a pyromaniac? also, it does make sense to imagine that there would be more arsonists in the fire department than elsewhere but this needs to be examined carefully. it is natural that poeple who like fire would position themselves in a situation where they would encounter fire on a regular basis..just as a a person, say with a love of children, would choose to be a pre-school teacher. but the emphasis here is on CHOOSE. the critical issue here is how people ended up with fire-fighting as their occupation? was it by choice or by chance? most fire-fighters may have gotten into fire-fighting because they couldn't get into, say the police force. in that sence, studies that conclude that there are more pyromaniacs in the fire department may be misleading as there might be more pyromaniacs on the police force (those that did get in). also, were the fire fighters predisposed to starting fires or did they become arsonists because they were around fire so much? these are interesting questions that need to be looked at further.


Brian Boyd

In middle school, this kid I know was arrested for setting fire to a file cabinet in the admin office. He said his plan was to put out the fire so he could be the "hero."


I work in wildland firefighting and while I would like to say this doesn't happen in America, it's not unheard of. It's a shame that the monetary compensation outweighs the potential damage that these actions could cause.


A good friend of mine is a fire marshall, and he confirmed this type of story, and that it occurs throughout the U.S.. The thing is, he told me this nearly a decade ago.

After seeing stories like this for more than ten years, I'm not sure that incentives are the problem. Although it was unsaid in the article, salaried firefighters don't start fires nearly as frequently as volunteers. I was shocked to hear that quasi-volunteers -- the ones who get a small payment when they actually get called out on a fire -- are the largest group of arsonists. My friend said that the combination of excitement and a little bit of money is the perfect incentive to these volunteer firefighters setting fires. The pro firefighters, however, are much less likely to start fires. He said that the reason may be the money. But he said a more likely reason may be the perceived risk!

You see, he noted that the arsonist firefighters tend to start brush fires (like the Corsican fire) and torch abandoned buildings so that no people get hurt or valuable property gets damaged. Professional firefighters, however, tend to work in metro areas where buildings are close together. Starting a fire in a city has a much higher probability of spreading to an occupied building, leading to catastrophe. Volunteer firefighter arsonists tend to not be malicious. They just want some excitement and a few bucks.

In other words, what differentiates the pro versus the volunteer firefighter is the concentration of people and buildings, and the corresponding probability of catastrophe, not the just incentive system.

He summarized by saying that, although most of the arsonist firefighters are looking for a little extra money and a thrill, sometimes what seems to the perpetrator to be an innocent burn turns into something terrible.



In this case, I'm sure the money did make a difference, but there's plenty of cases in which the firefighters are volunteer. Calling the fire takes them from being an ordinary nobody to the town hero.