Inside an Arsonist’s Mind

What does an arsonist look like? Often we assume that arsonists have a mental disorder, as the crime is so full of passion, but true pyromaniacs are astonishingly rare. Understanding motives for arson is the best way to understand arsonists. Here are some of the most common motives.


First is thrill seeking. Those arsonists who start fire looking for a thrill may be doing so to be defined as a hero (like firefighter-arsonists). It’s all about controlling the uncontrollable and getting recognition for doing so. These sort of arsons often escalate from dumpster fires to fires set in occupied buildings as the need for a bigger thrill arises.


Vandalism arson occurs out of boredom, much like juveniles who use graffiti or other acts of vandalism.


Revenge arson is actually divided into four groups: revenge against a person, society, an institution, or a group. This the most common motive for serial arsonists.


Crime concealment arson occurs when someone is trying to destroy evidence of another crime. These crimes vary from burglary to assault to murder.


Profit arsonists set fires either to gain or to eliminate debt. The most common examples of these are insurance fraud, liquidating property, destroying inventory, or to gain employment.


Wildfire arsonists that do not have a discernible motive do, in fact, have a profile. This is not representative of all arsonists, but characteristics that arson investigators tend to look for as prior cases have stacked up to paint this picture. General guidelines include white males between 17 and 26 with an unstable childhood; abuse or neglect by parents; poor academic performance; childhood hyperactive disorder; fascination with fire service; alcoholism or substance abuse; anti-social behaviors and other criminal activities.


Again, arsonists don’t have a single motive or profile. Trained arson experts are the only people really qualified to seek out and find arsonists and their motives. Contact John Michael Agosti & Associates today for more information.