Mixed News in Los Angeles Arson Reports

February 19, 2022

The number of intentionally started fires in the city fell 17% last year, with the 879 arson attacks recorded by the Los Angeles Fire Department compared to 1,062 cases in 2020.

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Yet there is an undercurrent of positively trending smoking: the 2021 total represents a 13% increase from 776 arson in 2019.

Los Angeles Police Department statistics differ from LAFD numbers, but also show more fires being set than before the pandemic. This is because not all arson calls firefighters respond to end up with a police report.

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From 2010 to 2018, the LAPD recorded between 300 and 412 arson attacks per year. The department recorded 419 cases in 2019, and the total jumped in the pandemic year of 2020 to 653 cases. The figure fell slightly in 2021, to 624 arson reports.

According to the LAFD, there were 18,161 responses to fires in the city in 2021 (the figure includes both accidental and undetermined fires), with 5% classified as arson. The total is up from 16,129 fire responses the previous year and represents a 51% increase from 12,028 in 2019.

“Since 2019, the LAFD has seen a steady increase in the number of fire and medical responses,” said Erik Scott, LAFD public information officer.

Scott said the increase in fire responses reflects a national trend. The American Red Cross reported that in the first three months of 2021, there were 16% more home fires in the United States than at the same time in 2020.

the California Penal Code classifies an incident as arson when someone starts a fire with malicious intent. Crime is considered a crime.

Burn downtown

Rich Meier, the lead expert at Meier Fire Investigation, a national firm that conducts a range of fire and explosion investigation services, said the economic downturn has contributed to the rise in intentional fires.

“When people lose their jobs, when they’ve taken out mortgages, and when they feel like they’ve run out of hope and options, the number of fires to collect the insurance money unfortunately also increases,” Meier said.

Based on publicly available information LAPD Datathere have been more arson incidents recorded in Downtown than any other neighborhood in Los Angeles last year. The 62 reports far exceed the number of incidents Hollywood (25), West Lake (24), Hyde Park and panoramic city (18 each).

One of the reasons for the high number of reports downtown is the tent camps in and around Skid Row. News reports recounted intentionally lit fires as means of retaliation following a dispute.

According to Estela Lopez, executive director of the Downtown Industrial Business Improvement District, there were at least 62 tent fires on Skid Row in December alone. She said while many are accidental, perhaps the result of heaters or people cooking meals, some are retaliatory.

“If your boyfriend gets mad at you, he burns down your tent. If you have an argument with someone, he burns down your tent,” she said.

Of the arson attacks recorded by the LAPD in 2021, 20% took place on the street. Another 8% of arson attacks were on sidewalks.

“All of the fires in our neighborhood are on the street, and they’re all encampments,” Lopez said.

Although the number of arson incidents fell last year, according to the LAFD, there were more arrests, with 188 in 2021, compared to 186 the previous year and 130 in 2019.

Since the beginning of 2021, there has been a new list of arson attacks that are attracting attention. A BMW caught fire downtown in a crime that investigators ruled arson. In Venice, a suspect was arrested after a series of garbage cans were set on fire.


How we did it: We reviewed publicly available arson data Los Angeles Police Department from 2010-2021, as well as data from the Los Angeles Fire Department. For the neighborhood boundaries, we rely on the boundaries defined by the Los Angeles Times. Learn more about our data here.

LAPD data only reflects crimes reported to the department, not the number of crimes actually committed. To perform our calculations, we rely on data that the LAPD makes public. The LAPD may update old crime reports with new information or recategorize old reports. These revised reports are not always automatically part of the public database.

Want to know how your neighborhood is doing? Or simply interested in our data? Email us at [email protected].


Crosstown is a local non-profit news organization based in Los Angeles. They use the data to provide essential information to local communities to help people make their neighborhoods safer, healthier and more connected. Sign up for their free weekly newsletter at xtown.la to get neighborhood-level data on crime, air quality, and traffic to your inbox.

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