Christie Administration Observes
National Arson Awareness Week May 5-11

TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Richard E. Constable, III and Acting State Fire Marshal William Kramer, Jr. join public safety officials at all government levels and national fire safety advocacy organizations in observing National Arson Awareness Week, which runs from May 5 to 11. This year’s theme, “Reduce Residential Arson,” shines a light on the crime of arson and encourages citizens to assist all communities and neighborhoods in reducing arson-related fire in residential areas.

“The ten-year record of success in the Division of Fire Safety Arson Unit speaks for itself,” said Commissioner Constable. “We want to recognize this Unit during a week when national attention is focused on the problem of residential arson and the scourge it represents in communities across our state.”

The New Jersey Division of Fire Safety Arson Unit was created in 2003 as a statewide solution to the spike in arson-related crimes and to fill jurisdictional gaps in the investigation and ultimate prosecution of those crimes. The Arson Unit is comprised of five investigators and three accelerant detection K-9s.

All investigators have been certified through the NJ Division of Criminal Justice and the Unit’s canines meet the strict certification and retraining criteria of the state Attorney General’s Office.

In the last 10 years, the Arson Unit has:
• Conducted more than 2,100 successful arson investigations.
• Secured 20 convictions for First Degree Arson, including seven for homicide.
• Secured two of those as convictions of firefighters charged with arson.
• Conducted 28 firefighter fatality investigations, providing resolution for families of fallen firefighters, as well as contributing to the future safety of all firefighters.
• Authored and saw passage of the “K-9 Access Bill,” which placed working K-9s in the same class with disability aid canines thus allowing them critical access to public buildings, transportation centers, public housing and lodging units.
• Conducted over 586 accelerant fire scene searches with Unit K-9s.
• Cross-trained Unit K-9s for tobacco detection to help the New Jersey Department of Treasury’s Criminal Investigation Unit and the federal Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol, Firearms Enforcement to combat illicit cigarette trade and as part of the Fire-Safe Cigarette Act.
• Secured two major tobacco apprehensions and as a result produced a palpable dent in the multi-million dollar illicit cigarette trade in the state. In one instance, it seized assets of product and cash amounting to $118,000, a majority of which consisted of non-fire-safe cigarettes.
• Developed and taught course curriculum about arson investigations and how to utilize accelerant detection K-9s in fire investigations.
• Conducted hundreds of K-9 demonstrations for law enforcement, fire and rescue agencies, and various civic organizations for both children and adults, increasing public awareness of the crime of arson and its costs to the citizens of New Jersey.

“Our Arson Unit has helped jurisdictions that don’t have their own local resources. Under the rubric of shared services, these communities have had access to the very best in forensics and investigative techniques for the past 10 years,” said Acting State Fire Marshal William Kramer, Jr. “However, as with every public safety effort, we still need the public’s assistance.”

He added that the national focus on the crime of arson should encourage citizens to take the following steps to help reduce arson-related fire in their communities:

Illuminate Exterior and Entrances
Install lights covering all sides of the house. Motion-activated lighting, which is inexpensive, should be placed near the entrances. An interior light on timers gives the impression a residence is occupied.

Install Burglar and Fire Alarm Systems
Alarm devices can be inexpensively wired to transmit an alarm to the police or fire department. Check the cost of contracting with a security firm for response to alarms.

Trim or Remove Shrubbery That Obstructs the View of the House from the Street
Make sure that nothing blocks the view of the house. During the growing season, bushes and trees may need to be trimmed frequently.

Keep Doors and Windows Locked and Bolted
All external doors should be equipped with dead bolts. A simple locked door could be the deterrent that saves a house from arson. The hardware used to lock windows can sometimes be easily forced open with a credit card or other tool. The best type of window hardware has spring-loaded bolts that insert through the window frame into the wall frame.

Clean House
Oftentimes, arson is a crime of opportunity. Remove excess vegetation and piles of leaves. Clean around your house and garage, removing unused and unneeded paper, trash, cleaning supplies, partial cans of paint and other materials that could become kindling and fuel a fire for an arsonist.

Equip Homes with Smoke Alarms and a Fire Sprinkler System
The combination of working smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers reduces the likelihood of death from fire by more than 82 percent. The most effective fire loss prevention and reduction measure for both life and property is the installation and maintenance of fire sprinklers.

Establish a Community Arson Watch Program
Form a neighborhood program, and publicize your community’s efforts. Arsonists seldom strike when you are ready for them.

The Division of Fire Safety serves as the central fire service agency in the state. The Division is responsible for the development and enforcement of the State Uniform Fire Code, as well as for implementing public education and firefighter training programs. For more information about the Division of Fire Safety, log on to on the DCA website.