Why do people deliberately start bushfires? Dr Colleen Bryant of the Australian Institute of Criminology has been trying to find out and, according to ABC Science Online (22 May), she’ll present research on deliberately lit fires at the Australasian Bushfire Conference 2006 in Brisbane in June.
While the community often views arsonists as pyromaniacs, Bryant and colleague Matthew Willis say very few deliberately lit fires are due to pyromania. Willis says in the majority of cases people who deliberately light bushfires do not intend to cause harm. They don’t tend to turn their mind to consequences of lighting a fire, rather are focused on creating some change in their life. While some want to relieve boredom by creating havoc and excitement, other arsonists crave recognition or attention, the researchers say.
The article also discusses research by Willis, who “analysed decades of studies including psychiatric assessments of arsonists who had lit building fires in towns and cities. He then adapted the findings to the bush and came up with a motive-based classification system for people who deliberately light bushfires.”