Miller-McCune has released the fourth in their series of five articles about the latest advances in managing wildland fires.
Part I: THE POWER OF ‘LOOK-DOWN’ TECHNOLOGY
Part II: UNDERSTANDING WILDFIRE BEHAVIOR AND PREDICTING ITS SPREAD
Part III: WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING ON U.S. FIRELINES
Part IV: CATCHING WILDFIRE ARSONISTS RED-HANDED
Part V: SMART SOLUTIONS GOING FORWARD
These are really well-done articles and are worth reading. Here is how the latest one, Part IV, about wildfire arsonists, begins:
Sixty-year-old grandmother Charmian Glassman, aka Ma Sparker, started 11 separate fires at Northern California’s Mt. Shasta in 1995, setting each within 10 feet of where she stopped her new Buick at the side of a winding woodsy road.
Her motive? To give her forest firefighter son enough fires to fight to prove himself a hero.
Consultant Paul Steensland, a veteran fire investigator and retired U.S. Forest Service senior special agent, frequently mentions this case when lecturing fire investigators. It’s a cautionary tale about getting too deeply invested in “profiles” of arsonists derived from the analysis of past offenders.
Although every arson case is different, these profiles — the most notable generated by research conducted by the FBI and the South Carolina Forestry Service in the mid-1990s — are markedly similar: Caucasian males in their teens or 20s, unemployed or marginally employed, blue-collar background, living alone or with parents. The profiles’ acceptance is why, even as officers were desperately searching for their arsonist on Mt. Shasta, Charmian Glassman managed to set a couple of fires right under their noses.
“She literally lit two fires within less than 50 feet of where officers were in the brush,” Steensland recalled, “because they just saw her pull by and could see her in her car and said, ‘She’s a grandmother.’ They had been conditioned to look for young white males.”