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How to Profile a Fire Starter

by Dr Cynthia Lea Clark 8 months ago in how to

A Psychopathologist Breaks it Down

Fire. It is fascinating. It is devastating. People like to sit by a fire and watch it, snuggle up to it. It can be cozy, romantic. It can be beautiful, mesmerizing. It can be deadly.

It is one thing to watch a fire and be fascinated as the flames flicker and dance and it is another to set fires for destruction and/or for profit as the arsonist does.

Who is this person who sets fires for a living or for fun?

There are two groups of arsonists.

The young adolescent --- who will mostly be male.

  • These set fires for fun rather than for insurance purposes or profit.
  • They are generally under the age of eighteen with the average age between nine and twelve.
  • They tend to have an unnatural curiosity with fire.
  • They set fires as a method of expressing themselves.
  • They tend to be delinquents.
  • In the grades of sixth through eight they were probably arrested for vandalism.
  • They played/play with matches especially before the age of three.

Adult fire starters --- who will also mostly be male.

  • 75% of the time is white and the majority of them come from a working-class family. However, if the arson is for vandalism or for pure excitement then they may come from middle class.
  • Their IQ tends to be in the lower range (70 to 90) – but remember there are exceptions to every rule.
  • There is frequently an absent or abusive father and emotional problems with the family and mother.
  • The arsonist may have been held back in school and may have learning disabilities. Frequently, we see a 10th grade education.
  • They tend to be social misfits. And they tend to use drugs.
  • They have a high incidence of having been sexually abused and have interpersonal problems with the opposite sex.

Female fire starters are rare. But those who tend to be promiscuous.

The arsonist tends to appear physically and emotionally weak in comparison to his/her peers. If they are employed, they are ambivalent and resentful toward authority. They tend to act in a subservient manner.

If they are unemployed, they set fires for vandalism, for excitement (the joy of the fire) or for profit. They tend to have numerous juvenile offences, especially property crimes. They may have previous arrest records and they show no remorse for their actions.

On the whole, the arsonist may suffer from a mania produced by the fire, be impulsive, be challenging and be impulsive.

Or they could be Psychasthenia – a term in personality testing that is synonymous with obsessive compulsive disorder and have increased anxiety levels, compulsiveness, and self-doubt.

Some suffer from Schizophrenia and/or have other psychotic tendencies as well as difficulties socializing, controlling their behavior, have academic issues, and suffer from acute stress.

Many arsonists when caught are diagnosed with conduct disorder – a disorder where children and adolescents have trouble following rules and social mores. They also tend to be aggressive, destruct property, lie, steal, run away from home, be truant, and deceitful.

Fire starters in general tend to be depressed, are alienated, have bizarre mentation, are angry, weary of others, feel isolated and hopeless. They vandalize, are cruel to animals, get into fights, and bully.

Some fire starters find the fire sexual exciting and gratifying and release themselves at the scene of the fire.

Others go into an obsessive-compulsive dissociative trance like state after setting the fire. It is akin to being hypnotized by the flames.

Reasons for starting fires fall into the following categories:

  • Revenge 41%
  • Insurance money 5%
  • Crime concealment 17%
  • Acts of Vandalism 7%
  • Lack of control 20%
  • Misc. (gang, etc.) 10%

The Pyromaniac is a different kind of arsonist.

  • Mostly male and generally adolescent to adult.
  • They set fires for their own fascination and pleasure not for criminal gain or revenge.
  • They too, tend to have poor social skills.
  • They plan out their fires and are highly excited by the fire.
  • They have no thought or concern about any deaths or property damages that might occur as a result of their urges.
  • They may have a mental disorder.
  • Many child pyromaniacs will grow out the need and to start these fires by the time they reach puberty. If they do not, they tend to move on to careers in arson for their life or until they are caught.

Next time you see fire what will you see?

I have a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (Psychopathology) and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology (Body Language, Lying and Manipulation). If you learned something from this article, please share the link, like it, or leave a tip!

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Dr Cynthia Lea Clark

Cynthia Lea Clark graduated from Northwestern Univ., attended nursing school & became a FF/paramedic. She cont. w/ MA, PsyD, & Ph.D. Being stalked led to Forensic Psychopathology w/ over 70 interviews w/ serial killers, mass murderers, etc.

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