Edmond Psychologist Talks Arsonists' Mindset


Tuesday, August 7th 2012, 6:35 pm
By: News 9


When looking at the images of the devastation, it's easy to ask the question, why would people intentionally start these fires?

Oklahoma Wildfires: Complete Coverage

Revenge, boredom, and thrill-seeking are just a few of the reasons a person could set fires like we've seen in the recent outbreak.

Psychologists say it's difficult to profile an arsonist before they strike, but research is providing more about the mindset.

"I think people get their passions going and that's how they get an outlet for it," Dr. Stewart Beasley said.

Dr. Beasley explains a person who intentionally sets fires to homes and property can be considered mentally ill.

"A lot of time we find arsonist will start a fire and then call the fire department because they like to stand around and watch the fire being fought, "Beasley said.

Beasley says studies suggest the more destruction caused by the fire, the more attention an arsonist hopes to receive,

"There is a little bit of the mentality of let me see if I can do this without being caught and a little taunting that goes on," he said.

As the fire grows, psychologists believe the flames also spark desires in the arsonist. Studies show some arsonists commit the crime to fulfill sexual fantasies.

"It's part of their gratification, it's a little bit of their confused sexuality, a little bit of passion tends to come out in that way," Beasley said.

Prosecutors say there are four levels of arson punishable by law. The most serious case, when a person is injured, carries a punishment up to 35 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.