TAMPA - Fire officials today will head to a neighborhood beset by a spate of arsons to offer safety tips as part of National Arson Awareness Week.
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who also serves as the state fire marshal, will attend the 1 p.m. event at a fire station at 2100 E. 11th Ave. in the V.M. Ybor neighborhood.
There have been 22 arsons in the neighborhood since January 2009; the most recent was March 17 at a vacant single-story house at 2924 N. 11th St.
Many of the fires in the neighborhood north of Interstate 4 between 22nd Street and North Nebraska Avenue were set on trash or debris inside or outside houses, Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Wade said. Most of the houses were vacant.
Officials also will go to a properly boarded vacant home to discuss how unsecured homes can be easy targets.
"For an arsonist, it's like putting a welcome doormat out for them," said Mark Sauls, a district major with the Florida Division of State Fire Marshal.
About 316,000 arsons are reported in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Those fires injure 7,800 civilians and firefighters and cause about $1.1 billion in direct property loss.
The Florida Division of State Fire Marshal said it investigated 2,024 arsons in 2008, 1,785 in 2009 and 527 through the first four months of this year. The division said it made arrests in 21 percent of the cases in 2009, compared with a national average of 17 percent.
The U.S. Fire Administration offers these tips for preventing arsons:
Lock your windows and doors.
Have sufficient lighting.
Eliminate debris and trash from the front and back of your home and business.
Report suspicious activity to law enforcement.
Keep trash cans at least 10 feet from buildings and roof overhangs.
Eliminate or securely store flammable items.