Talk:Arson

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Just something to stimulate discussion, it is a well-known fact/urban legend (prolly fact) that firefighters stand a much higher chance of becoming arsonists than the general population, because adrenaline is addictive -- hence, they set fires then rush to go put them out once someone calls 911. This needs documentation, but is interesting and thus, I'm putting it here until someone can confirm in some verifiable way. Tuf-Kat

I'd lean towards fact. In recent years, there was a well reported case (in California I believe) of a highly regarded arson investigator who was working on a novel. There was an accumulation of baffling and suspicious arson occurrences; meanwhile a working draft of the novel somehow met eyes they weren't intended for and it happened that occurrences in the plot of the book matched rather closely the fires that were being perpetrated. And that's just one example I've heard of. -- knoodelhed 11:55, 4 Oct 2003 (UTC)
It is an urban legend. John Orr was an aberration and a disgrace. If anything, the opposite is true, with arsonists being drawn to the fire service, but I don't think most of them make it through training. The psychology of arson just doesn't propel them to like it. If you'd like some reading on the subject, try: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/tr-141.pdf. Meanwhile, for more information on the John Orr story, which was made into a TV movie, you cna run a search for his name.--catseyes 18:39, 31 October 2005 (UTC)


According to the pyromania article, pyromaniacs are attracted also to instiution that control fire like fire alarmds and firehouses. Therefore I think it makes more sense that someone is obsessed with fire when they become a fireman, not they become obessed with fire while they are a fireman (though it seems possible) Johhny-turbo 05:59, 28 December 2005 (UTC)

Arson in fiction[edit]

I wonder what the point of the subsection "arson in fiction" is? Marc K 11:49, 2 March 2007 (UTC)

Psychology[edit]

Maybe a section on the Psychology of arson should be added. (unless that is covered by pyromania)

is smokeing dope arson?

picture caption[edit]

Is The fire of the century, caused by arson trying to refer to Old_Fire? --Espoo 05:52, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

Intent[edit]

Going back through the edit history, I noticed that the original, broad definition of arson posted was "setting a fire with the intent to cause damage." Then this language about "with the intent to kill people or animals inside." If someone sets a fire with the intent to kill people, and it kills them, that's a homicide. If they fail to kill the people, that's attempted homicide. Granted, arson is still involved, but the definition is not so narrow as to requrie an intent to kill. I know of no statute that requires the intent to kill an animal as an element. I understand PETA and ELF/ALF have arson related animal rights activisim, but there are no statutes of which I am aware that employ animals or require an intent to harm an animal in any element of the crime of arson. Arson is setting a fire with the intent to cause damage, plain and simple. I've removed the superfulous language, but I guess we can discuss what if any ought to be back in. I think the arson definition language is more accurate without it.

you are correct Urukagina

Galicia (under motivation)[edit]

193.203.200.2 wrote about the frequency of man made fires in Galicia. It seems very specific to me. Without verification to the paragraphs significance, ill just correct puncuation for now. Urukagina 02:49, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

Etymology[edit]

Etymology behind the word "arson"?

European bias[edit]

This article is quite clearly only about arson in Europe. Anyone up for editing it to include a more general worldview? 128.113.98.26 18:11, 19 October 2007 (UTC)

Well, I can't imagine setting off wildfires that endanger lives and property is looked well upon anywhere in the world....but okay what other views are there? Masterblooregard 21:41, 26 October 2007 (UTC)
I made some changes in an attempt to correct the Euro-centric bias. Might the tag be pulled?--Valkyryn (talk) 22:15, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
There never was a "globalize" tag on there. The {{refimprove}} tag is still there, and needs to remain for now, as the article is still in need of more citations. SchuminWeb (Talk) 01:21, 20 November 2007 (UTC)

Legal Definition[edit]

What are the elements of the crime of arson? I think that would be pretty relevant. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 168.179.185.82 (talk) 19:51, 23 November 2007 (UTC)

Elements added[edit]

I added the common law elements of arson in the U.S. In doing so, I reorganized the article to separate English and Scots law from U.S. law. I moved the sentence concerning felony-murder in the U.S. to the U.S. Law section. --G77 (talk) 21:40, 25 January 2008 (UTC)

Reorganization and new references[edit]

I added several references to legal works in the U.S. law section. I also added external links to a web MD article dealing with the motives behind arson. Finally, I noticed that many of the introductory remarks dealt with the motives behind arson. So, I thought it better to create a separate section for the motives behind arson. --G77 (talk) 01:48, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

Only a few citations still needed[edit]

After I added many citations to almost every section, I found that the disclaimer about need for citation was no longer necessary. Therefore, I moved it to the only section still in need of cites: English and Scots law. My expertise is only in U.S. law. Any barristers out there who could lend a few cites?--G77 (talk) 20:58, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Misdemeanor Arson[edit]

Recently, someone put in some language about different degrees of arson. I had to revert those changes back to the original for two reasons. First, the writing was of a poor quality and was unsigned by any Wikipedia user. Second, the language about the different degrees of arson had no real citation and seemed out of place.

I'm not opposed to talk about different degrees of arson, but, it would have to take place in the U.S. law section. Furthermore, it must make clear that the degrees of arson vary from state to state. Finally, this article is a part of the common law portal. That is why its language focuses on the common law and not each jurisdiction's individual statutory scheme. It is impossible to give each state's outline of the differing degrees of arson. We might consider simply stating that the sentencing schemes vary by state and that certain acts of arson are only misdemeanors.--G77 (talk) 01:03, 31 January 2008 (UTC)

I'm sorry, I didn't see your explanation until just now. As you can see, I recently re-vamped, restored and re-positioned the information in question...I was careful to maintain the citations you added, while adding some more. Incidentally, it would be nice if you could include a brief summary of what some of the legal citations you refer to, are saying, since few readers are able to immediately access the Legal works you are citing (unless they are available online). It is acceptable to me, your suggestion that 'We might consider simply stating that the sentencing schemes vary by state and that certain acts of arson are only misdemeanors.' The main reason I introduced 'talk about different degrees of arson' is because the statement it replaces was insufficient and inaccurate, the sentence about "arson is considered a dangerous crime, and is a felony." For one thing, all crimes are considered dangerous, and secondly arson is not always prosecuted as a felony, in common law or otherwise. Now that we are more aware of each other's perspectives, we probably can easily come to an agreement on the ideal characterization of the information, for the article. Signed: 69.155.104.98 (talk) 22:42, 31 January 2008 (UTC)

OK, sorry I took so long to get back to this. At common law, arson was a felony. Crimes similar to arson but punished as a misdemeanor were not called "arson." They were called "houseburning" and "malicious mischief." [1] Therefore, it is incorrect to say that at common law arson was sometimes punished as a misdemeanor. It is only by statute, in contravention of the common law, that states punish "arson" as a misdemeanor.

However, I like the style of your latest writing and I agree that something must be said about the different degrees of arson in the U.S. I hope you don't mind if I move that information to the U.S. law section.--G77 (talk) 07:09, 15 February 2008 (UTC)

I do mind. What's with your edits? You seem to be wanting to turn a somewhat balanced template into a peculiar amplification of archaic discussions, you refer to "common law" this and "common law" that, as if modern case precedent is not particularly relevant. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you an attorney? Lonmower (talk) 13:26, 17 February 2008 (UTC)

I'm sorry. I don't mean any offense. I'm trying to make an accurate description of arson as a legal concept. Arson is part of the "common law" series on wikipedia. That's why I think it's important to talk about the common law elements of arson. After talking with another wikipedia editor who practiced law in England, he and I thought the best way of organizing the common law articles is to start with a basic definition of the crime, move to the common law elements (as these serve as the basis of the law in most English speaking countries), describe basic themes in the law of specific common law countries, and finally include miscellaneous information such as motives behind the crime.

I am not unconcerned with modern precedent. I definitely think we should include it in the U.S. law section. I kept everything that you said; I only moved it to the U.S. law section and (if I remember correctly) changed a few verbs from passive to active.

It sounds like you've probably gone to law school. So, I'm sure you know that the way a legal concept is usually described is by starting with the old common law rule, then describing how it has changed, and finally stating some basic themes in the way courts deal with the concept modernly. I assumed that this would be the best way to write an article about a concept like arson. Do you think the article is organized incorrectly?

I'm hoping to use the arson article to form a basic template for organizing other articles on common law legal concepts. I'm still new to this whole wikipedia thing and the arson article is the only one that I've really taken time to work with, other than a few edits on burglary. My plan is that once I/we hammer out a basic template for articles concerning crimes in English speaking (common law) countries we can more easily edit other articles in that genre.

Let me know if you think this is a bad idea. If so, I will definitely consider changing my plan. --G77 (talk) 01:09, 18 February 2008 (UTC)

I find the whole Wiki Law Project a bit quiet, with many editors inactive. At least, I rarely encounter any, but them I'm one of the few UK criminal lawyers editing here at all. If this gets contentious (and I don't think it will), we could set up a discussion on the Project's Talk Page, but meanwhile I think we should just get on with it and try to improve these articles. Peripherally involved are articles on mugging and vandalism which don't seem to focus on anything in particular and might be better redirected, especially considering that they are poorly sourced. I'm around most of the time, so drop me a note and I'll get back to you. --Rodhullandemu (Talk) 01:41, 18 February 2008 (UTC)
You're right. I think it's time to move on, too. I can't think of much more that I can add to this article. I might try to clean up the robbery article, whenever I get some time. --G77 (talk) 01:56, 18 February 2008 (UTC)

Namdaemun arson[edit]

I think that the arson in Namdaemun should be added to this article. Namdaemun is Korea's number 1 treasure. I feel sad for me and the rest of the Koreans. Weatherlover819 (talk) 11:11, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

In the general article about arson, no. It is, however, mentioned in the specific article about the structure. SchuminWeb (Talk) 11:27, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

New Organization for the article[edit]

I tried to copy the basic organization of the burglary article. After a bit of discussion, another user interested in editing the common law articles and I decided the best organization for these types of articles is:

  • Common law definition
  • U.S. Law
  • English Law
  • X nation's law
  • Misc.

--G77 (talk) 23:34, 15 February 2008 (UTC)

Passive and active voices[edit]

A user undid my edit which corrected a sentence by changing it from passive voice to active voice.

English passive voice is a common stylistic problem and Wikipedia users generally agree that we should avoid using it. For example:

"John threw the ball" is better than "The ball was thrown."

In this case, the sentence read: "As with any crime, arson charges are punished..." This structure is not as good as the correction I made: "States typically prosecute arson in degrees of seriousness."

The correction changes the sentence from passive voice to active. Therefore, I suggest that it should remain in its improved state.

With the change, I also corrected a few other problems. First, the corrected sentence adds the word "typically." This is an important addition because the criminal laws of every state change from time to time, and it is impossible, or at least extremely inefficient, to constantly check on the arson laws of every state. Instead, we should state the general theme. Furthermore, the word "typically" does not imply that "not all states punish arson in degrees of seriousness." The word "typical" means "combining or exhibiting the essential characteristics of a group." [2] The essential characteristic of the group (states in the U.S.) is that they punish arson in degrees of seriousness. Therefore, the change I made does not imply that not all states punish in degrees; it simply implies that at least the majority, if not all of them, do punish in degrees.

Finally, the improved sentence removes the language "As with any crime..." This is important because not all crimes are punished in degrees of seriousness. The user who offered this comment gave no citation indicating that every crime is always punished in degrees of seriousness. Therefore, I suggest that, in the very least, this language should be removed.

The change I made to the sentence increased the accuracy of the statement without altering its essential content. It also made a stylistic improvement. Therefore, the improved sentence should remain.

In good faith, I will wait for a response to this argument for a few days before making (or actually remaking) the improved sentence. --G77 (talk) 21:10, 24 February 2008 (UTC)

States do not "typically prosecute crimes with regard to degrees of seriousness" states _always_ prosecute crimes with regard to degrees of severity. But I'm not wanting to argue this with you; there is a peculiar, ulterior motive evident to most of your edits, and I am more keen to discuss that with you if necessary, or if you prefer. Lonmower (talk) 21:31, 24 February 2008 (UTC)
I'm interested in the idea that every crime is always punished in degrees of seriousness. Do you have a cite for that? If it's true, I will certainly alter my stance on that issue. In regard to my motives for my edits, they are only to write accurate articles. I guess I should talk about that on your profile page though, not on the arson article...--G77 (talk) 21:50, 24 February 2008 (UTC)
Crime has been described and prosecuted with attention to varying degrees of severity since the beginning of human history, in every culture, in every nation, in every era. Are you actually requesting a cite for that? Lonmower (talk) 07:43, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
OK, sorry it took me a while to get back to this. Many, if not most, crimes are not punished with attention to varying degrees of severity. For example, statutory rape is not prosecuted in degrees. Either the defendant is guilty of statutory rape or he is not. The vast majority of crimes in the U.S. are not prosecuted in varying degrees of seriousness. Arson and murder charges are an exception. Under the rubric of arson, the prosecutor might choose to charge first degree arson, or second degree arson, and so on, depending on the situation. The same is true of murder. This is not true of statutory rape, just as one example.
On the other hand, if you are referring to the possible punishment that a convicted defendant might receive based on sentencing guidelines, these, of course, vary. In sentencing a defendant, the judge must adhere to the possible range of punishments that the particular statute requires him to consider. He might take into account, for example, whether the defendant has committed other crimes in the past. The judge, generally, has a good deal of discretion to determine the correct punishment, and he will make his decision with attention to the circumstances of the case.
Sentencing guidelines are not, however, what the phrase at issue in the arson article is considering. The phrase indicates that all crimes ("As with any crime...") are prosecuted in degrees of severity. This is simply untrue. A quick look at the criminal code of any state in the union will show that not all crimes are punished as first degree X, second degree X, and so on. Not all crimes are like arson and murder. Murder is punished in degrees; so is arson. But that is certainly not the case with all, and probably not even most, charges that a defendant might face. Therefore, my answer to your question is yes. I would like to see a cite that indicates that every crime since the dawn of mankind has been prosecuted in degrees of severity. I remain willing to change my mind if you can produce a rational argument. --G77 (talk) 01:58, 1 March 2008 (UTC)
"For example, statutory rape is not prosecuted in degrees." Well, that's because statutory rape involves a degree of the crime of rape. In other words, as with all crimes, the crime of rape has been 'prosecuted or described with attention to degrees of severity,' and statutory rape is modern terminology for a certain degree of severity. For more about how crime is historically adjudicated with attention to degrees of severity, have a look at attendant circumstance and extenuating circumstances and related articles. Lonmower (talk) 04:54, 1 March 2008 (UTC)
"not all crimes are punished as first degree X, second degree X, and so on." semantics: the sense of the word "degrees" in the article is not identical to sense of the word "degree" in " first degree X, second degree X, and so on." In the article degrees refers to levels of severity, whereas " X degree X" is legal terminology not strictly employed in every case. Lonmower (talk) 06:57, 1 March 2008 (UTC)
Statutory rape is not a degree of rape. It's a different crime that the prosecutor can choose to charge someone with. Consider SEC rule 10b-5; either someone is guilty of fraud in connection with the sale of securities or not; there are no degrees of the offense. The same with SEC rule 16b; either someone violates the rule against short-swing profits or not--no degrees there either. Is someone who violates a law against bingo games without a license subject to prosecution by varying degrees of illegal bingo gaming? No. That's just ridiculous. The prosecutor never thinks "which degree of conspiracy should I charge him with." Voter Harassment is not a degree of another crime; it's just a crime. Don't harass voters. What other offense is that a degree of?
Furthermore, even if all of these crimes are a degree of something else (I have no idea what that would be, maybe a degree of just being bad?), the sentence in question is still misleading. It insinuates that all crimes are punished in degrees, as in "first degree X, second degree X, and so on." That's simply not how criminal codes are organized, just take a look at one.
In regard to your references to circumstances, extenuating circumstances are taken into account at sentencing, not in the prosecution of the offense. During the trial, the prosecutor must prove the attendant circumstances as defined by a particular crime. This concept actually proves my point. The prosecutor cannot cause someone to be especially guilty of operating a bingo hall without a license, or increase the degree of the illegal bingo hall offense. He must simply prove the attendant circumstances required for the crime, nothing more, nothing less. The court will then determine the severity of punishment at the sentencing, not during the prosecution of the offense.--G77 (talk) 09:45, 1 March 2008 (UTC)
What a pointless discussion this has become. You seem to go from one misconception to another[3], obviously neither an attorney nor a paralegal, nor having attended law school or pre-law, nor having any experience in legal discourse. You're just expressing opinions, confident in your own inclinations, what a waste of time to argue with anyone who approaches debate from such a standpoint. Lonmower (talk) 10:44, 1 March 2008 (UTC)
nevertheless, I did revise the disputed sentence. Lonmower (talk) 11:56, 1 March 2008 (UTC)
While my writing style here was certainly more conversational, I feel I presented my argument in a straightforward and rational manner. I don't think it's necessary or relevant to accuse me of a lack of competence. I graduated from a top 100 law school, hold the top award for my school's appellate advocacy competition, and am now licensed to practice law in two states. As to the Breaking and Entering bit, I did not argue that matter because it was clear that I could be mistaken. I've never seen burglary listed as breaking and entering. But, as Montaigne says, "what do I know?" Just because I think something is true everywhere, does not make it so.
In any event, thank you for changing the sentence. I actually see this debate as beneficial. Please feel free to challenge any of my future entries.--G77 (talk) 17:22, 1 March 2008 (UTC)
  • "Breaking and entering" was a UK term for burglary prior to the Theft Act 1968, when a distinction was drawn between offences committed at night (="burglary") and during daylight hours (="housebreaking"), and persists in several common-law jurisdictions. --Rodhullandemu (Talk) 17:32, 1 March 2008 (UTC)

Dark Ages[edit]

In medieval continental Europe arsonists were burned at the stake (a.k.a. autodafe), which was very much fitting for their crime. 91.83.16.172 (talk) 22:35, 10 May 2008 (UTC)

Interesting, but without a reliable source, we can't use it. SchuminWeb (Talk) 01:39, 11 May 2008 (UTC)

Historical examples[edit]

It seems there is no consensus for having too much detail on these in this article when they are more than adequately discussed in their own, and sourced. I'd suggest going into too much detail here is a breach of WP:UNDUE; in fact, they might just as well be in the "See also" section. --Rodhullandemu 15:06, 10 February 2009 (UTC)

I have reverted your edit since the Reichstag fire is perhaps the most important example of arson in recent times. The article is extremely short on real examples, and should be expanded and not cut down. Peterlewis (talk) 16:19, 10 February 2009 (UTC)
Why does that detail need to be here when it is already covered (and sourced) in the relevant article? --Rodhullandemu 16:26, 10 February 2009 (UTC)

Its hardly any great detail at all: there is much more in the main article. To repeat, the article as it stands lacks examples. If you like I could put in some other examples where forensics has assisted in finding the causes of fire. Arson is frequently blamed when there are other explanations, such as faulty products. Car fires, for example, are often caused by faulty fuel lines. At present the artcile is very dry and dusty, almost as if written by a lawyer. Peterlewis (talk) 17:28, 10 February 2009 (UTC)

Well, that should come as no surprise; this article is mainly within the Criminal Law project. If there is a Criminology project, which I don't know at the time of writing, and it comes within that project, the psychological aspects of arsonism should certainly be addressed. As it happens, they haven't been so far. Historical examples of arson might well be addressed by such attention; but the political dimension thus far appears to be as moot as any other form of property damage, or attacks on individuals or sections of population. As far as this article is concerned, arson is apparently no more a political tool than any other means of oppression, and I suggest that this article would be better off without it, given the alternatives. Accordingly, I've removed a lot of unsourced, tendentious tosh. Seriously, if this article is to mean anything at all, it needs to be focused on its reason to exist: which is "the destruction of property by fire", and although motives may vary, they do need careful, and reliably sourced analysis. Rodhullandemu 01:26, 7 April 2009 (UTC)


Motivation for arson[edit]

The Radio Four series All in the Mind discussed motivation for arson on July 12 2011. Criminological psychology is not my strong point, but if any knows anything about this topic, it could go in the article. ACEOREVIVED (talk) 20:45, 12 July 2011 (UTC)