Children are the city’s most prolific fire starters, according to
arson statistics and local officials, and their acts led to a 130%
increase in intentional fires last year.
Firefighters responded to 23 arson cases in 2002, compared to 10
in 2001. Many of them were prompted by domestic conflicts in which
revenge resulted in intentionally set car fires, officials said. But
the main reason for the jump was an increase in fires set by
children, police said.
“That’s where our double came in,” said Burbank Police Det.
Kevin Grandalski, who investigates fires with Fire Capt. Bob
Reinhardt. “The problem is the long-standing issue of kids playing
with matches and with fire.”
Shrubbery, Dumpsters, trash cans and a couch were among the
arsonists’ targets last year. Another fire apparently was sparked by
two children’s campfire, Grandalski said.
In one incident last year, a 13-year-old Burbank boy was arrested
on suspicion of arson after allegedly lighting a fire in a restroom
near the gym of John Burroughs High School. The boy told police he
used the bathroom and threw burning paper towels on urinals to cover
the odor. The boy then threw the towels in a trash can, police said.
Another arson case occurred in a vacant house in the 1800 block
of North Lincoln Street. The two-story home was partially gutted and
suffered an estimated $100,000 damage. The fire had several starting
points and a flammable liquid such as gasoline was used, Grandalski
said. The case is still being investigated.
Last year marked the second year in a row arson increased in
Burbank. In 2000, only three reported fires were illegally set, a
total that more than tripled in 2001.
Still, the numbers pale in comparison to the early 1990s. In 1991,
150 arsons were reported in the city. Officials said aggressive
prosecution and the conviction of serial arsonist and former Glendale
Fire Department arson investigator John Orr played major roles in the
Arsons in neighboring communities also have increased. Glendale,
for example, went from 46 arson cases in 2001 to 66 in 2002.