FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, May 04, 2018


TRENTON - The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ (DCA) Division of Fire Safety (DFS) joins the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Fire Administration, and the state fire service by marking National Arson Awareness Week, with the specific focus on reducing arson at abandoned and vacant structures this year. The goal of National Arson Awareness Week, which runs May 6 through 12, is to share information and provide strategies to combat arson.

“Abandoned buildings, unsecured and exposed to the elements, are susceptible to arson. These structures can be perilous, especially to firefighters, as they lack structural integrity and may contain other hazards,” says Director and State Fire Marshal Richard Mikutsky. “National Arson Awareness Week is one way of calling attention to this ongoing problem.”

This year’s program will highlight basic evaluation procedures; provide recommendations to help communities deal with issues specific to abandoned buildings; spotlight training available to fire investigators; and explain the advantages of clear boarding, which is an alternative to plywood for boarding up empty properties.

Nationally, there are 23,800 vacant residential building fires reported each year. Those fires result in an estimated 75 deaths and nearly 200 injuries and about $785 million annually in property loss. According to DFS, within this total, there were 664 vacant building fires in New Jersey and six reported injuries.

Vacant and abandoned buildings, without operating fire suppression systems, can experience quick-moving fires, thanks to open pathways, and fueled by plywood on the windows; these fires cause a disproportionate amount of firefighter injury. Abandoned structures marked for demolition account for a national average of 550 incendiary-arson caused fires per year.

New Jersey, through the Division of Fire Safety, enforces the most stringent fire laws in the nation, and works closely with its partner local enforcement agencies to identify potential hazardous structures within local communities. Mikutsky says that the Division’s Arson Canine Unit is kept very busy with requests for assistance from local jurisdictions confronted with possible arson.

“We work very closely with local officials to conduct ongoing inspections, which helps to identify abandoned structures. In some cases, we can discover problems before an inspection, simply because the owner is not responsive to our outreach,” Mikutsky says. “All fire safety personnel welcome the public’s help in identifying suspicious activity at vacant structures, by first reporting it to law enforcement, who, in turn, notify the appropriate officials to follow up,” adds Mikutsky.

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 community risk reduction and firefighter training programs.



Tammori Petty
Lisa Ryan
(609) 292-6055