Arson in America: Data shows arsons not reported to federal government, its links to foreclosure

Arson in America is much more common than is reported by the U.S. government, Scripps News found in a yearlong national investigation.

Most acts of arson in America go unreported to the federal government, the investigation found.

SPECIAL COVERAGE- Arson in America: The Alarming Reality

Scripps News conducted an audit of arson fires reported in nine sample cities and uncovered an alarming rate of deliberate fires that were not reported to the National Fire Incident Reporting System -- or NFIRS. Select a city below to see the discrepancy between what NFIRS said was arson and what a Scripps audit found.



One of the most important "red flags" for arson, experts say, is economic hardship, particularly when property owners face foreclosure and then benefit from insurance payouts because of a fire.

Scripps entered into a data-sharing partnership with RealtyTrac, a California-based company that tracks mortgage foreclosures nationwide. RealtyTrac was able to link 430,000 of the fires reported to the U.S. Fire Administration from 2006 to 2011 to its mortgage records and found that more than 47,000 of them started the foreclosure process.

Homes that burned during this period experienced more than a 50 percent increase in foreclosure compared to homes that did not burn.



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