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Arson Awareness Week Focuses on Costly Vehicle Arson

5/7/2007

CONTACT: Nina Banister or Brannon Jordan
(850) 413-2842
 
CFO Sink:  “Think You’ll Get Away With It, Think Again”
 
TALLAHASSEE – Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink announced today a slate of events scheduled this week throughout Florida to bring attention to costs and risks associated with vehicle arson.   The events are part of Arson Awareness Week, which began on Sunday, May 6, and continues through Saturday, May 12.  The theme is “Vehicle Arson:  Who Pays for This Crime?”
 
The motives for vehicle arson are varied and range from thieves hiding evidence of a crime to owners trying to get out of expensive leases.  Last year in Florida, more than 6,800 passenger vehicles burned causing 20 deaths and 51 injuries, including 12 firefighter injuries. Criminal charges relating to vehicle arson can result in prison sentences ranging from five to 30 years per count. 
 
“Arson is a violent crime because there is always the risk of someone getting hurt or killed,” said CFO Sink.  “Our intention this week is to get the word out that if you think you’ll get away with it, think again.  Our arson detectives are among the best in the nation and the odds are in our favor.”
 
As part of Arson Awareness Week, the Division of State Fire Marshal, Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations (BFAI), and the Tallahassee Fire Department will stage a mock vehicle arson investigation.  The public is invited to watch as a vehicle is set on fire and arson detectives, including a K-9 team, investigate and collect evidence.  The demonstration will continue at the state arson laboratory where forensic chemists will test and verify the collected evidence.  
 
Other activities around the state include the Governor and Cabinet signing a resolution declaring this week Arson Awareness Week, a proclamation to be signed by the Osceola County Commission commemorating Arson Awareness Week, public discussions on how to prevent vehicle arson, an essay contest for elementary school students in Broward County, and displays and other activities designed to draw attention to the risks and costs associated with vehicle arson.
 
CFO Sink is urging Floridians to help stop vehicle arson by following these steps:

• Always park your vehicle in a well-lit area.
• Close all windows.
• Remove key from ignition.
• Always lock doors, trunk and tailgate.
• Use anti-theft devices.
• Report any abandoned vehicle to local law enforcement authorities.
 
Sometimes vehicle fires are caused by electrical or mechanical problems, and CFO Sink offered the following advice in the event of a vehicle fire:
 
• Get yourself and others out of the vehicle as quickly as possible.
• Call 911.
• Stay away from the vehicle.
• Do not attempt to extinguish the fire yourself.
• Do not open the hood or trunk if you suspect a fire.
 
Following are events planned for Arson Awareness Week in Florida:
Tuesday, May 8, 2007 - Arson Awareness Week proclamation will be presented by the Osceola County Commission during a meeting at 6 p.m. at Kissimmee City Hall.
 
Wednesday, May 9, 2007 - Mock vehicle arson investigation at 10 a.m. at the Tallahassee Fire Department Training Facility, located at 2964 Municipal Way in Tallahassee.  The mock investigation will continue at the state arson laboratory at the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy on Route 90 West near Quincy.
 
Also, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the BFAI and Tampa Fire-Rescue will have an Arson Awareness Week display on the Franklin Street Mall near the Tampa Police Department. 
 
Thursday, May 10, 2007 - The Panama City Office and Northwest region of the BFAI along with fire departments and members of the law enforcement community will discuss vehicle arson at a meeting at 9 a.m. at the Panama City Fire Department, located at 600 E. Business Highway 98, in Panama City.
 
Also, the Fort Myers Field Office of the State Fire Marshal’s Office, in conjunction with the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, and the Fort Myers Fire Department, Fire Prevention Unit, will participate in a display with emphasis on the fraud aspect of vehicle arson.  The display will be inside Edison Mall, (the Dillards’ court area), 4125 Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
 
Friday, May 11, 2007 - Detective Greg Gilkey, of the West Palm Beach BFAI office, and his new K-9 partner, Ember, a yellow Labrador Retriever, will be graduating from the State Farm-sponsored Arson Dog School in Alfred, Maine, after completing a five-week training program certified by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.  The BFAI has five K-9 arson teams.
 
May 15 and 18, 2007 - The winners of an essay contest coordinated by the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Fire Rescue, will be announced.  The contest includes fourth and fifth graders at several schools, and the overall winner will receive four tickets to a Florida Marlin’s game.   Also, arson detectives from both offices will be speaking during Arson Awareness Week to various youth groups about the dangers and consequences of arson.
 
The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations is a law enforcement branch of the Division of State Fire Marshal that assists other state and local fire and law enforcement agencies in the investigation of fires of suspicious origin.  To report suspected arson, call 1-877-662-7766 (1-877-NOARSON).
 
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. CFO Sink also serves as the State Fire Marshal.