Arson Awareness Week May 7-13, 2017
Arson Prevention at Houses of Worship
May 7-13, 2017 is national Arson Awareness Week and this year’s theme is Arson Prevention at Houses of Worship.
State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said, “There are several practical steps we can take to reduce the chance our houses of worship will be victims — improve external security, internal security, and community awareness.”
The U.S. Fire Administration has tools and resources for houses of worship to prevent fires of all types, intentional and accidental, on their Arson Awareness Week webpage. Suggestions include holding a House of Worship Fire Safety Day to educate members about possible fire safety hazards and a Clean-Up Day to make the house of worship less attractive to vandals and arsonists.
Reverend James Tilbe, chief chaplain of the Massachusetts Corps of Fire Chaplains said, “There is no arson fire that tears at the fabric of a community more than one involving a house of worship. These are sacred spaces where people connect to their God and to each other.”
There have been 26 arson fires in houses of worship over the past decade (2007-2016) in Massachusetts. One of the most notorious occurred the night Barack Obama was elected President in Springfield, November 5, 2008. The Church of the Macedonia God in Christ was a storefront church attended mostly by African Americans. Eventually three youths were arrested and charged with setting the fire. But not only Christian churches have been victimized. There have been fires at Jewish synagogues, Hindu temples and Muslin mosques as well.