A Serial Arsonist is someone who habitually and compulsively sets fires. Under U.S. Law, arson is defined as "the malicious burning of the dwelling of another", though the actual crime may entail the burning of any structure or object. It has been noted that many serial arsonists are actually frustrated or disgruntled firefighters, who fall into the category of Pyromaniacs.
The FBI describes serial arson as "three or more fire setting episodes, with a characteristic emotional cooling-off period between fires".
The arsonist feels compelled for various reasons, as listed below:
- Retaliation for "persecution"; often practiced by youths as a means of revenge.
- Financial gain; to collect insurance benefits, etc.
- To cover up other crimes such as murder, etc. The arsonist believes that burning down the crime scene will "erase" the crime.
- Pyromania: a sheer, compulsive need to see the destructive effects of fire.
On Criminal Minds
Serial arsonists in Criminal Minds.
- Clara Hayes ("Compulsion")
- Vincent Stiles ("Ashes and Dust")
- Chester Hardwick ("Damaged")
- Tommy Wheeler ("House on Fire")
- William O'Brien ("Public Enemy")
- Greg Phinney ("The Stranger")
- John David Bates ("Sick Day")
- Carl Panzram
- Bruce George Peter Lee
- Dale Hausner and Samuel Dieteman
- Paul Kenneth Keller
- John Leonard Orr
- Shirley Winters
Under U.S. Law, arson in any form by an adult is a felony. Juveniles, in the past, have been charged with the misdemeanor "Malicious Mischief", but this has changed in recent times. Depending on the nature of the associated crime, Felony Arson may punishable by life in prison (20 to Life).
- Only 12% of serial arsonists are female.
- Only 7% use gasoline and matches to start fires.
- Most serial arsonists do not intend to cause death, just set fires. Usually, any death caused by the arson fire is accidental.