An insured decided that the only possible means of escaping his mortgage was
to burn down his house. Being a rather
imaginative fellow, he decided to also
make the fire look like an accident.
On leaving his house in the afternoon,
he opened the gas jets on the stove, blew
out the pilot on his gas dryer and water
heater, and set the thermostat on his elec-
tronically ignited furnace to 80 degrees F.
It was a hot summer day, but he assumed
it would eventually cool off a little, the
thermostat would kick on the furnace,
and the electronic starter would ignite
the entire house. What he did not count
on was Southern California’s Santa Ana
Winds that brought heat from the des-
ert, and kept the outside temperature in
the hundreds all day and into
the night. The insured could
not anticipate that a neigh-
bor with clear sinuses would
smell the gas, turn it off at the
meter, and save the house.
Of course when the in-
sured returned home, he had
to hide his disappointment
that the house was still there.
Undaunted, however, he tried
again the next week. This
time he took no chances. He
went to the hardware store
and bought a case of Cole-
man cooking fuel and spread
it throughout the house. Then
he tore up a book of paper
matches so that there was no
cover, only matches. He lit a
cigarette and placed it low be-
tween the matches and left the
house confident that when
the cigarette burned down it
would ignite the match heads
and burn down the house. He
was again sorely disappointed
when he returned home to
find the house still there.
The would-be arsonist had
his innocent wife with him as
an alibi. When they entered
the house, she became hysterical at the
sight of the flammable liquids poured
throughout the house. She insisted that
he report the incident to the fire depart-
ment. He wouldn’t do it so she, against his
wishes, called in the arson investigators.
“Boy, you were lucky. The idiot who
tried to set fire to your house set his fuse
upside down!” The youngest investigator
blurted out to them before his partner’s
swift kick in the shins could stop him.
The fact that the cigarette to be used as
a fuse must be placed at the head of the
matches, not the base, was not known
to the insured and the cigarette merely
burned itself out.
The insured learned a lesson from the
arson investigator. The house burned
How Not to Commit Arson
Most people do not understand how hard it is to set fire to a house that destroys the entire dwelling and its contents. Most residences simply do not have sufficient
combustibles in the right place to allow for a sustained fire. Many
homes, especially the more modern ones, have fail-safe devices
everywhere that make accidental fires a thing of the past.