PB has slight jump in arson fires

Pine Bluff has experienced a slight increase this year in incidents of arson fires after a “significant drop” in 2011, but spokesman Lt. Harold Clark figures the city is still progressing in terms of fire safety and awareness.

Records indicate there have been 83 arson fires thus far this year, said Clark, Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department public information officer.

He said many persons are under a misconception that arson fires include a total burn, but most arson fires don’t spread beyond the point of origin.

Clark said a rash of fires involving older, unoccupied houses made 2010’s arson count higher than normal, but steps have been taken to counter that trend.

“The city has done a great job,” he said. “There have been a number of vacant, dilapidated buildings, which are often invitations to arson. That situation isn’t unique to Pine Bluff and is often related to vagrancy, gang activity and drugs. And the economy plays a role here, too.”

The fire department also has several free programs and services available to help citizens learn to be fire safe.

“Our citizens fire academy is great for people wanting to help against arson. And our smoke alarm initiative with which we want to install a firm alarm in every home is a great tool in our efforts to reduce house fires and increase survival rates in such incidents,” Clark said. “Every smoke alarm in a home increases fire survival chances by 50 percent. We also have CPR training.”

The department also tries to educate the public and landlords about boarding up empty houses as a deterrent to crime.

“That helps against arson. And the same goes for keeping up the yards of such properties. Having the grass mowed, making the property secure and keeping it cleared lessens the chance of arson,” he said.

Clark said anyone wanting guidance on preventing possible arson or interested in any of the fire department’s training or service programs should call 870-730-2048.