What is Arson? Know Everything

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What is Arson? Know Everything

Statistics show that in 2020, there were 23.29 arson cases for every 1,00,000 inhabitants in Canada. And it gets worse every year.

But what is arson?

Simply put, arson is a crime of creating fire intentionally that causes harm to others. Criminal activity includes not just igniting a fire but also helping to arrange or assisting in the act.

Arson crimes are challenging to solve because everything has been burnt to ash, making it difficult to find the evidence. However, judges give considerable attention to cases of arson in court.

Here is everything you need to know if you or someone you love is a victim of arson.

What is Arson?

A home or any other location can catch fire due to arson. A fire lit by someone deliberately or negligently may destroy a property.

The same accusations can be pursued against anyone if others are in danger. Who owns the property is a regardless issue in this matter.

So, we can say that arson is the malicious, intentional setting of property on fire.

How Many Types of Arson are There?

There are six different types of arson. The frequency and location of the crimes will determine how each kind is defined.

1. Single,
2. Double,
3. Triple,
4. Mass,
5. Serial,
6. Spree.

The first three types describe a single fire that is started in one, two, or three places and has no cooling-off time.

The others’ characteristics are:

Mass: At least three fires are set at the same in the same area

Spree: Having three or more fires started at the same but at different places

Serial: There are three or more fires set, spread out over a certain amount of time

What is an Arson Investigation?

An investigation to determine whether a fire was set accidentally or on purpose is known as an arson investigation. Such an inquiry is conducted to ascertain whether a crime has been committed.

Interviews with witnesses and the gathering and processing evidence are the primary steps of arson investigation.

If someone were injured or killed due to the fire, the legal repercussions for someone discovered to have caused the fire on purpose would be far more severe. A comprehensive arson investigation is crucial because fires have previously been used to hide homicides.

What are the Elements of Arson?

Some requirements must be completed to determine if an incident of fire was intentionally started. The table below shows these components as they are described by common law.

Category Description
Malicious Any unintentional behaviour increases the risk of a fire.
Burning The damage to a building is caused by heat or fire. The heat or fire must have at least charred the wood to be considered arson.

Burning trees, forests, wood, grains, or vehicles.

Of the Dwelling An occupant uses any space as a habitation is a dwelling. No matter the type of dwelling—house, barn, apartment, etc.—as long as it is occupied, the fire qualifies as intentional.
Of Another The fire must have occurred in a structure where someone was residing for it to qualify as arson. For instance, even if the landlord holds the property, a tenant may set fire to his rental home, but the landlord could not do the same to the tenant’s home.

These are the fundamental components of common law, which have since been enhanced. According to contemporary interpretations of common law, a structure need not be someone else’s property or even occupied for arson to have been committed; instead, it only has to be vacant.

Is Arson a Felony?

Arson is considered a felony in the USA. However, it is not referred to as a felony in Canada.

In Canada, arson is an indictable offence, not a felony.

What is the Punishment for Arson in Canada?

While reckless burning is regarded as an indictable offence and is typically penalized harshly, arson is a crime. Different levels of both offences are collectively referred to as “arson” in some jurisdictions.

Although arson is nearly always a felony, the severity of the sentence depends on several variables.

Check Also: What is a Sex Offender? 

The severity of property damage:

In general, the severity of the punishments might increase with the amount of property damage caused by the arson. A case of arson may result in an indictable offence.

The penalty depends on the amount of property damage caused and the perpetrator’s intent. In either scenario, the potential consequences of an arson charge and conviction might be devastating, leaving a blemish on your character and criminal record.

The court may give at most ten years of imprisonment if the accused person is found guilty.

The punishment is frequently less severe unless the burned property was a house or personal property. Additionally, the sentence for burning an empty building is less severe than the punishment for burning an occupied building.

And if the law enforcement finds explosives or incendiary devices or substances, the court will order the criminal to serve a maximum of five years in prison.

Injury or physical damage to people:

The penalty also gets worse if someone is hurt. In Canada, an arsonist faces a maximum sentence of 14 years if at least one person is dead.

The highest level, first-degree arson, involves starting a fire or explosion in an occupied building that poses a significant risk of severe bodily harm and carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Why Do People Commit Arson?

The main reason for arson is revenge or a strong desire to attack someone or gain insurance profit from it. There are different kinds of arsonists. Some are:

For-Profit Arsonist:

A broad category of crimes known as “for-profit arson” includes inventory destruction and insurance fraud. This kind of arsonist would sooner set their homes on fire than let their mortgages go into foreclosure.

Again, as Burns put it, they would “sell it to the insurance company” and avoid any debt or foreclosure. The for-profit arsonist has two options for burning the house: hire someone or do it themselves.

Revenge Motivate Arsonist:

Arsonists driven by retaliation feel that they must take action to feel vindicated. A federal organization offering fire data, fire education, and fire research stated that arson could be classified into personal vengeance and societal, institutional, and group reprisal.

The Hero:

These are the people who intentionally start fires to save the victims. The “hero” feeds on the commotion and the spotlight. The firefighter-arsonist is a subclass of the “hero.”

The Firebug:

It is a psychological term used by law practitioners. A person who gets delighted by fire and the adventures it brings.

Destroying police cars, fire trucks, and the suffering of victims are all to the pyromaniac’s delight. Most firebugs huddle around their “accomplishment,” repeatedly watching the news coverage of the fire.

Child’s play

Sometimes, such violent crime as arson can be initiated from a mere child’s play! Older children and teenagers are likelier to start fires outside, while younger children are to start fires inside homes.

According to the American Psychological Association, children utilize fire to bring attention to stress in their lives. These kids may be dealing with pressure from their families, sadness, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

What is Attempted Arson?

If, in any case, a person is caught by the law enforcement officers with any flammable, combustible, or explosive substances, they will be charged with attempted arson.

In attempted arson cases, the accused person will be convicted depending on three factors:

  • Availability of flammable material
  • Preparation for igniting structure, land, or house
  • Prof of physically attempting the malicious act

How Does an Investigator Find Evidence in an Arson Case?

As stated above, arson cases are challenging to solve. However, after putting out the fire, the investigators try to collect evidence to identify the criminal.

  • To collect evidence, they follow the steps below:
  • Restrict the area so that the crime scene will be less contaminated
  • Take photos and videos of every significant item.
  • Collect samples for further lab analysis the investigate the cause of the arson.
  • Interview witnesses and people who live in the apartment.

What to Do If You are a Victim of Arson?

Usually, recovering from a house fire or witnessing your property burn is a traumatic experience. And to put out the fire, the firefighters try their best to save the victims and property.

Since firefighters are involved in an arson case, you may not need to report the police separately if you are severely injured. However, seek help from a friend or relative or talk to your lawyer.

You must also inform your insurer if your house or car is insured.

How to Defend Against an Arson Charge?

You should contact a criminal defence lawyer if you are charged with an arson case. The court will take into account the following factors that only a lawyer can help you with-

  • Intoxication
  • Motivation (thrill or hiding evidence of another crime)
  • Minor damages caused by young adults

You need to seek the help of a lawyer because a lawyer can help you limit the charges by proving that the damages are not significant.


Hopefully, this article has helped you understand what arson is and how the motif of a criminal can cause property damage. The good news is in Canada, you can seek help from the local government for mental help from a professional or a temporary shelter.

Since burnt household items can emit smoke and odour, you should only enter the house when authorized officials permit you.


What is the meaning of arson?

Arson is a criminal act where the criminal willingly fires a property or vehicle. Nevertheless, assisting, attempting, and possessing flammable objects are also known as arson. To learn more about arson, read the article above.

What crime is arson?

In Canada, arson is known as an indictable offence.

It is the unlawful and malicious burning of a building with the intent to injure or damage it. It is a felony in most states, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Arson can also lead to a civil judgment in favour of the victim. It is a white-collar crime.

What is the difference between fire and arson?

A fire with a human factor is incendiary in nature. On the other hand, arson is an ignited firing incident or a chain of events initiated by someone. Arson is a crime. An incendiary fire that satisfies the requirements for an arson offence in the relevant jurisdiction is called an arson fire.

The definition of arson varies from state to state in Canada and other countries. Still, frequent aspects include setting fire to someone else’s property without their consent, starting a fire that puts people in danger, committing insurance fraud, or covering up a crime.