Local Fire Officials Shed Light on Arson Awareness Week - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Local Fire Officials Highlight on Arson Awareness Week

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The Florida Division of State Fire Marshal investigated over 3,700 fires that caused 166 million dollars in damage.

While solving an arson case has a very low success rate, here in Bay County, fire officials are working to change that.

"Most of our evidence is totally destroyed by the fire, so we're actually having to get through and sift and dig down and layer a lot of fire debris that has collapsed," says Lt. Tommy Barron with the State Fire Marshal's Office.

The national average for arson convictions is about 16 percent. In the Northwest Florida Region, it is a bit higher at 20 percent. Here in Bay County, even better about 26-27 percent.

"We're doing a really proactive job to let everyone know that if you start a fire anywhere around this area we're going to put you in jail," says Barron. 

Wednesday, at the fire department's training site, fire officials representing Panama City, Panama City Beach, Lynn Haven, South Walton and the Division of State Fire Marshal gathered for Arson Awareness Week. They were praising the local efforts and collaboration.

According to the Division of State Fire Marshal, arson is often committed to cover up another crime, like murder or burglary. And the number one reason for arson is monetary gain

"The crime could occur, but if we could prevent them from filing a claim and getting paid fraudulently that's a win for us," says Barron. 

Lt. Barron also announced plans to create an Arson Awareness Task Force.