Arson: A Combustible Subject

By Genevieve Flynn

So what is arson?

The crime of arson is committed when an individual or group purposely set fire to property. The States vary on whether it is charged as a misdemeanor or felony because it normally depends on the case.

New Hampshire Law Regarding Arson

634:1 Arson

I. A person is guilty of arson if he knowingly starts a fire or causes an explosion which unlawfully damages the property of another.

II. Arson is a class A felony if the property damaged is:

  • (a) An occupied structure and the actor knew it was an occupied structure; or
  • (b) An historic structure.

III. Arson is a class B felony if:

  • (a) The property is either that of another or the actor’s property, and the fire was started or the explosion caused for the purpose of collecting insurance on such property; or
  • (b) The actor purposely starts a fire or causes an explosion on anyone’s property and thereby recklessly places another in danger of death or serious bodily injury, or places an occupied structure of another in danger of damage; or
  • (c) The property damaged is real estate; or
  • (d) The pecuniary loss caused is in excess of $1,000.

IV. All other arson is a misdemeanor.

To summarize what this law is saying, a person is guilty of arson if they knowingly cause damage to property. It is a class A felony if the property is historic or a known occupied structure and a class B felony if the fire damage was used to collect insurance money, had injured or killed another person, the property was real estate, or if it cost more the $1,000 to repair. Any other arson is misdemeanor. The punishment for a class A felony is 7½ to 15 years, class B felony is 3½ to 7 years, and misdemeanor less than a year or a fine.

Arson in America

Over this past summer in Raymond, New Hampshire a man named Gregory Bruno was arrested facing arson charges. He was arrested after months of investigation and is linked to many fires, including burning a house which killed three dogs. The motives seem to be a domestic dispute that happened between him and a family. Here is a link to the article. Another case is in Los Angeles when 24-year old Harry Burkhart was arrested as a suspect to many suspicious fires most of which started in cars. He had matched the description of a man caught in a surveillance video taking by arson investigators. Police are confident he is the suspect but are still investigating. The motive could possibly be arguments with his mother. Here is a link to the article. There is an interesting article about infamous arsonists that is linked here.