Buncombe County – Last year someone torched the Weaverville Tire & Wheel business and burned it to the ground. Just this week Asheville Fire Department Lieutenant John Eldreth, a 22-year member of the department, was in court over charges that he set fire to a car back in January. He was fired from the department on those allegations.
North Carolina Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey made this week Arson Awareness Week and urging residents to be alert to potential signs of arson.
This Arson Awareness Week, May 5-11, State Fire Marshal Causey and the U.S. Fire Administration are focusing efforts to prevent arson at construction sites.
“Arson costs consumers not only in dollars but in lives lost,” Commissioner Causey said. “That’s why I’ve hired investigators to assist local jurisdictions investigating arson cases.”
To help prevent construction site arson, the U.S. Fire Administration recommends that contractors:
- Store solvents, fuels and tools in a locked storage container or remove them from the job site when not in use.
Request addition patrols or drive-bys from local law enforcement.
- Remove trash and debris from the job site.
- Try not to store excess materials on the job site.
- Secure doors and windows on structures when crews are not actively working on the property.
- Community members can also help fight arson by becoming familiar with neighborhood activities and reporting suspicious activities to local police.
The Office of State Fire Marshal has recently beefed up its efforts to combat arson in North Carolina.
OSFM has hired four fire investigators. Also, the OSFM has a team of electrical engineers, structural engineers and fire protection engineers to provide assistance to local jurisdictions investigating fires.
The OSFM coordinates its efforts with the State Bureau of Investigation and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to lend expertise and assist local jurisdictions in their investigations of suspicious fires.
Sometimes arson is used in insurance fraud schemes. Insurance fraud costs American consumers approximately $80 billion a year. According to Commissioner Causey, fraud costs North Carolinians between 15 and 20 cents on every dollar of insurance premiums.