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Inside the Mind of the Serial Arsonist

Inside the Mind of the Serial Arsonist

Kayla Baxter,

November 18, 2009

Understanding why people commit antisocial acts is important for investigating offenses and ensuring that perpetrators receive justice and treatment. There is an extensive literature considering the motives behind arson. While there are many different approaches to motives and classification of arson, and terminology can change between writers – taken as a whole the literature suggests the following common motives for arson.


There are several kinds of motives for arson:

Vandalism – Started by youths. These fires account for half the arson in America.


Revenge – Offenders act out against society in general. They’ve been wronged, and lash out at targets that appear to be random.

Profit – Arsonists set fire to their own home, hoping to get insurance money

Extremist – To achieve political objectives.

Crime concealment – Meant to hide a burglary or a murder.

Then, there is Serial Arson.

Serial arson fires account for 15% of all arson fires, but are some of the most destructive. Once arsonists start setting fires, they get a sense of power or control. One offender talked about sitting on a hill and watching the fire trucks and turmoil, getting a sense of power so strong that they had never felt anything like it in their life.