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Wildfires Are Raging, But in L.A. It’s Arson That’s on the Rise

Note: This article first appeared on Crosstown and is shared with their permission in partnership with Los Angeleno. You can subscribe to Crosstown for crime, traffic and air quality news here.

Are fires increasing? Data shows fires set intentionally are up 41% this year.

California is reeling from the devastating wildfires popping up across the state. The City of Los Angeles has seen its own recent disturbing fire-related trend: an increase in the number of reported arsons.  

These are happening in many different settings. Not only are homes a frequent place of attack, but people are also setting intentional fires in tool sheds, at businesses and even at schools. 

In the first eight months of 2020, there were 393 arson incidents in the city, up 41% from the same period last year, according to Los Angeles Police Department data. There were 419 reports for the entirety of 2019. That was already a 17% jump from 2018. The low point in the last decade was 2014, when there were 300 cases of arson.

Fires of all types also increasing

Peter Sanders, the public information director at the Los Angeles Fire Department, said the increase in fires is not limited to arson. The city has seen a rise in trash, building and vehicle blazes. 

From Jan. 1 – Sept. 9, the LAFD recorded 7,422 fires, a 42% increase over the  5,223 fires reported in the same period last year. Sanders could not specify how many of these were arson-related, as LAFD data is different than that used by the police department. 

The National Fire Protection Association classifies an incident as arson when the person who starts the fire intends to cause harm and there is criminal intent. 

Downtown saw the greatest number of arson incidents during the first eight months of the year, with 36 cases reported to the LAPD. That’s a 28.5% increase from the 28 reports during the same time last year. Hollywood had 17 incidents.

Arson sparked by homelessness?

Van Nuys recorded 13 arson incidents during the first eight months of the year, up from four during the same time in 2019. Mike Browning, vice president of the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council, said, “We had major fires that were homeless-related.”

Read more on Crosstown.

Los Angeleno