Vacant Building Fires

Fires in vacant buildings have become a matter of increasing concern as the economy has weakened. With the downturn in the economy, the numbers of vacant buildings and vacant building fires have been climbing. Often these fires have time to grow before they are discovered and reported. These larger fires can threaten other properties nearby. Because children and youth may use these buildings for hang-outs or risky activities, and the homeless may use them as shelter, firefighters cannot be sure that no one is inside.

Burnt Buildings

Vacant buildings that burned were evenly divided into secured (15,400) and unsecured (15,600). Fire spread was greatest in unsecured vacant building fires. More than half (57%) of the unsecured vacant building fires were intentionally set compared to only 31% of the fires in secured properties. The 2009 edition of NFPA 1, Fire Code requires owners, or those in charge of vacant properties, to remove waste and combustible materials and to secure the building to prevent unauthorized people from entering.

Facts & Figures

  • 63% of vacant building fires occurred in homes, with 58% in one-or two-family dwellings and 5% in apartments.
  • Forty-three percent of vacant building fires were intentionally set. Vacant buildings accounted for 25% of all intentionally set structure fires.
  • Only 6% of all reported structure fires were at vacant buildings, but they accounted for 13% of the firefighter injuries incurred at structure fires.
  • In addition to 141 civilian injuries, 4,500 firefighters were injured annually at these incidents and accounted for 13% o all firefighter injuries incurred at structure fires.
  • From 1998 to 2007, 15 firefighters were fatally injured at vacant building fires.

Report Any Suspicious Activity to the Charleston Police Department

  • Call - CRIMESTOPPERS (843-554-1111) 
  • Online
  • Text - 274637 – Begin your message with "Tip-213" and then give your information through the encrypted system. 
  • Call 911 in an emergency

Related Links

Arson Hurts Everyone