UTICA, N.Y. -- Last year, the Utica Arson Task Force investigated 78 fires within the city, 42 of which were deemed intentionally set. This year, they have already encountered nine cases of arson.
However there is some good news. Fire officials say that when it comes to fires tied to insurance fraud, numbers are down.
"We don't see as much arson for profit as we did in the mid 90s when the original task force was put in place. Now we see more gang related or fires that involve vacant structures. Easy targets," said Utica Fire Marshall Raymond Beck.
Beck hopes to see a decrease in those fires by getting the public involved. Here's a few prevention tips he suggests:
- Make sure there's sufficient light outside your property to deter trespassers.
- Join neighborhood watch groups and reporting any suspicious activity.
- And it's a good idea to remove any trash or debris around your property that could cause flames spread to other structures, a concern shared by Red Cross officials.
"We always try to stress to people to have a good preparedness plan and do fire prevention, but it just goes to illustrate that you can have the best plan and the best safety in your home and a fire next door can make you an unwilling fire victim," said Andria DeLisle-Heath, executive director for the Red Cross of the Mohawk Valley.
And since vacant buildings tend to be the target, the city plans to reduce those hot spots.
"We've identified vacant structures within the city and we are making an effort to try and get those secured," said Beck.
Which Beck hopes will help lead to fewer scenes like these.
For more tips and information on Arson Awareness Week, visit www.usfa.dhs.gov .