Looking at the motivation for arson may help investigators catch the fire starters


A two-story duplex went up in flames around 7p.m. Sunday Harding Avenue in Kaimuki.
Four hours later, a one-story, single family home on Haaa Street in Waipahu catches fire.
The Honolulu Fire Department said both fires were intentionally set.

Forensic psychologist Dr. Marvin Acklin said there’s a chance they could be related or they could be merely coincidental.

“Inevitably,  when you’re trying to figure out when a fire is deliberately or intentionally set is what was the motivation of the individual who set the fire?That takes us into the mind of the fire setter,” Acklin said.

The first thing investigators usually look at is whether there could be a financial motivation behind setting the fire, such as insurance.

“The second issue would be whether or not the fires were set by someone who was psychotic or delusional who has a mental illness,” Acklin said.

The clinical terms in pyromania. It’s a pathological disorder and pyromaniacs have an obsessive desire to set fire to things.

“They are very rare but they do exist… some of them will actually impersonate firefighters. Some will deliberately set the fires then call the fire department and standby and see the action,” Acklin said.

Acklin explained that the third thing investigators will usually look at is whether this could be a serial fire situation. “We don’t really have enough evidence to suggest that there is a serial pattern to this because there’s only two incidents.”

And the final and most important thing to consider, according to Acklin, is whether there was potentially malicious intent.

“Whether the fires were set by someone who has a grievance, which is to harm others, either specific people or whether there’s a kind of a general grievance against harming anyone. This would be the kind of thing that we would also see in individuals who are mass shooters,” Acklin  explained.

Investigators will assess all the evidence and look closely at everyone involved to determine who had a motive.

No injuries were reported in the Kaimuki blaze, though at least seven adults and one child was home at the time of the fire. 

Fire fighters pulled one man from the Waipahu fire and administered CPR. HFD said he was then transferred to EMS.

The Honolulu Police Department confirmed they took over both cases, but they are unable to comment due to the ongoing investigations.

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