Monday, May 3, 2010 - 7:54am
A City of Madison man has his initial court appearance today in connection with a series of intentionally set grass fires at Warner Park. 48-year-old Jeffery Heggesta of Madison was arrested last month after being linked to the fires dating back to 2009. He is charged under state statutes pertaining to the intentional setting of forest fires, a Class H felony. He is suspected of setting more than 10 fires between last year and this spring.
The City of Madison's Fire Investigation Unit investigated 45 acts of arson out of 76 reported in the City last year, with eight arrests. The estimated dollar loss due to those intentionally set fires is in excess of $430,000.00. The Fire Department is part of a Joint Arson Task Force working with the City of Madison Police Department and other agencies at the State and Federal levels.
This week marks Arson Awareness week with a focus on Community Arson Prevention.
Arson Awareness Week is an educational campaign by the United States Fire Administration (USFA) in partnership with the International Association of Arson Investigators, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, USAonWatch, National Association of State Fire Marshals, National Volunteer Fire Council, and the Insurance Committee for Arson Control.
USFA and its partners will use the week of May 2nd to the 8th to focus public attention on the value of community arson prevention and the resources and support available to reduce this crime.
National data from the USFA and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), shows an estimated 316,600 intentional fires reported to fire departments in the United States each year, causing injuries to 7,825 firefighters and civilians. In addition to needless injury and death, an estimated $1.1 billion in direct property loss occurs annually.
Arson robs communities of its valuable assets - lives and property. But it destroys more than buildings. The crime of arson often results in the decline of the neighborhood through increased insurance premiums, loss of business revenue, and a decrease in property values.
The City of Madison Fire Department and the USFA recommends these community projects to help prevent arson in your neighborhood:
•Focus on identifying and removing what could burn or materials that an arsonist could use to start a fire
•Clean up the neighborhood by removing all garbage, material, and excess vegetation that is capable of being ignited.
•Remove all possible sources of ignition such as flammable liquids and unused gas containers.
•Remove abandoned vehicles. According to the USFA's NFIRS data and the NFPA, there is an annual estimated average of 25,328 intentional fires involving vehicles. Most car fires are started to cover up other criminal activity or simply as an act of vandalism. An abandoned car is a target for arson.
- Lori Wirth, (608) 266-5947