"Economic fires" increase across Alabama

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - The number of people burning down their own homes is increasing across the state, according to State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk.  

"It's not race specific.  It's not socioeconomic specific.  It affects everybody," Paulk says.  He describes the situation as the following:  A homeowner faces foreclosure.  They start a fire, hoping it will be ruled an accident...hoping they'll recoup insurance money.  

Paulk warns that it is a crime.  A crime that he says has doubled in the last year or two as the economy has continued to suffer.  "They are taking the profit motive to the -nth degree, which is greed and it saddens me that people result to that," adds Paulk.
UAB business professor, Bob Robicheaux says history shows that in a crippled economy, it is not just homeowners that resort to economic fires. Business owners are known for the practice as well.  

"They face the potential of losing their business, and they face the potential of their workers being out of work and everything is bad.  So sometimes good people make bad decisions," Robicheaux says.   Both he and Paulk encourage anyone considering that option to stop, reach out, take control.  

"I think in most cases, if they went to their family, their minister, they would find would find that even though they think that's the only way out, perhaps there are other ways out," Robicheaux says.  

"We may lose what we worked hard for, but if you commit a crime, you stand to lose so much more," Paulk adds.  He says the punishment for a person convicted of 2nd degree arson, even on their first attempt, is 2 to 20 years in prison.