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Sheriff Adrian “Butch” Anderson Announces Arson Awareness Week

Published: May 9, 2018

For More Information Contact:

Lt. Shawn Castano, 845-240-8069     

Poughkeepsie, N.Y. - Dutchess County Sheriff Adrian H. Anderson announced today that the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, along with the U.S. Fire Administration, is recognizing May 6-12, 2018 as “Arson Awareness Week”. This year’s theme is focusing on reducing arson at vacant and abandoned buildings.

Sheriff Anderson said, “We want to takes steps to help prevent all fires, but especially fires in vacant or abandoned buildings because of the hazards they create for our firefighters and our communities. At the recent fire at the vacant HRPC building in the Town of Poughkeepsie, I saw first-hand the challenges our firefighters faced and I commend them all for their efforts that day.”

According to a National Fire Protection Association report titled, “Fires in Vacant Buildings”, research indicated that:

  • In 2011-2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 30,200 structure fires per year in vacant properties. These fires resulted in an average of 60 civilian deaths, 160 civilian injuries, and $710 million in direct property damage per year.
  • Half of vacant building fires were intentionally set compared to 10% of all structure fires.
  • Vacant building fires reached a high point in 2007 and 2008 and have declined since 2012.

An estimated average of 3,310 firefighters per year were injured at vacant building fires during 2011-2015

Sheriff Anderson added, “We will continue to work closely with the Dutchess County Fire Investigation Division, the Dutchess County District Attorney’s Office and all of our fire departments and law enforcement partners to thoroughly investigate fires and to provide the resources necessary to bring those responsible for committing arson to justice.”
The Sheriff’s Office Fire & Arson Investigation Unit is comprised of deputy sheriffs and detectives who have received specialized training and certification as fire investigators. These investigators determine the origin and cause of fires or explosions, process fire scenes and crime scenes, provide investigative assistance and conduct criminal investigations. The unit also has an accelerant detection canine team that is used as an investigative tool to locate the presence of ignitable liquid residue at fire scenes. Unit members are assigned to the Dutchess County Department of Emergency Response Fire Investigation Division.
The Dutchess County Department of Emergency Response Fire Investigation Division provides a highly trained investigative unit to assist fire chiefs throughout Dutchess County with determining the origin and cause of fires or explosions. Members of the Fire Investigation Division are certified fire investigators who are on call twenty-four hours a day and respond to scenes when requested by a fire chief. The majority of the members of the Division are volunteers. Fire & Arson Investigators from the Sheriff’s Office and an Assistant District Attorney from the Dutchess County District Attorney’s Office all work alongside the County Fire Investigators as a collaborative team.
According to Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady, “All firefighters must be recognized and commended for the substantial risks they take each and every time they fight a fire.   Whether a building is vacant or abandoned does not reduce that risk, either to themselves or the community.    Holding Arson offenders accountable is a priority for my office.  As a result of a close working relationship with the fire community and law enforcement, whenever needed, an Assistant DA specially trained in Arson investigation and prosecution responds to the scene with Sheriff Fire Investigators as well as the Dutchess County Fire Investigation Division in order to provide the necessary assistance that will enable us to successfully identify and prosecute those responsible.”
Lieutenant Shawn Castano, commanding officer of the Sheriff’s Office Fire & Arson Investigation Unit said, “In addition to investigating fires, we also focus efforts on the prevention aspect with programs such as the Dutchess County J-FIRE Program.”
The mission of the Dutchess County Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Response & Education (J-FIRE) Program is to provide a comprehensive, non-punitive, multidisciplinary approach to address the problem of juvenile fire setting by early identification, assessment, education, and intervention in an effort to protect lives and property. Intervention specialists in this program include firefighters, law enforcement officers, probations officers, juvenile justice system professionals and mental health clinicians.
Lt. Castano said, “Juvenile fire setting may start out small in isolated areas around the home, but this behavior could progress to setting fires in vacant or abandoned structures where there is easy access and no supervision. Early intervention and reducing opportunity are both important aspects for prevention.”
Sheriff Anderson offered a few tips to help reduce the opportunity of criminal activity and decrease the risk of fire at vacant or abandoned buildings:

  • Prevent Unauthorized Building Entry: Properly secure and lock vacant and abandoned structures that could become a target for trespassing, vandalism or arson; Post no trespassing signs; Consider installing security cameras.
  • Decrease the Presence of Fuels: Clean up and dispose of garbage, gas cans, painting products, overgrown vegetation and other ignitable materials in and around vacant and abandoned structures; Keep dumpsters at least 10 feet away from buildings.

Be Vigilant and Increase Awareness: Immediately report any suspicious activity to the police; Notify the police of particular areas of concern and request patrols of those areas; Contact your local fire chief to discuss any fire safety concerns that you may have.   

To obtain more information on the Dutchess County J-FIRE program or to make a referral, please call 845-486-3994 or email

If you have any information on any arson fires, please contact the Sheriff’s Office tip line at (845) 605-2583 or email at All information and tips will be kept confidential.