Over 280,000 intentional fires are set each year, resulting in more than 400 deaths. Vehicle arson represents 7% of total fires and 14% of direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Vehicle arson is directly responsible for $180 million in property damage every year. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that an intentional vehicle fire is one of the most common forms of automobile insurance fraud.
Vehicle arson can quickly spread to other property, causing thousands of dollars in damages. This escalation may also put your family or neighbors at risk for injury.
There are precautions that you can take to reduce the likelihood of vehicle arson and its impact. Here are some suggestions from the U.S. Fire Administration and FEMA:
- Always lock all car doors when you leave the vehicle, and be sure the tailgate is securely closed.
- Close all windows and remove the key from the ignition. Never leave your vehicle unattended while it is running.
- Park your car in a well-lit area. Two-thirds of intentionally set vehicle fires occur under the cover of darkness. If you are in a parking lot, look for a space close to a street lamp. If you are in a parking garage, look for a space close to an attendant booth or with a direct line of sight to the street.
- When parking at home, keep your car in the garage if possible. If you park in the driveway or on the street, make sure there is adequate light. Installing bright exterior lights will not only safeguard your vehicle but also provide added protection for your home. Motion-activated lights are another simple way to deter criminals.
- Use antitheft devices such as a car alarm or steering wheel lock. This will make it more difficult for a potential arsonist to enter or move your vehicle.
- Install a vehicle recovery system such as GPS or Lojack. Quick recovery reduces the chance that a stolen vehicle will sustain damage.
- Abandoned vehicles are a prime target for arsonists. If you see an abandoned car in your neighborhood, report it to the police.
- If you see a vehicle fire, retreat to a safe distance before calling 911. Do not attempt to return to the vehicle to retrieve other items.
- Do not open the hood or trunk if you suspect a fire under it, as the additional air may cause the fire to grow suddenly. A fire extinguisher approved for class B or class C fires may be used on a vehicle fire, but only from a safe distance with a clear path of escape.
A Neighborhood Watch group and frequent communication with Police and Fire will send a message to arsonists that they are not welcome in your neighborhood.