The ABCs of fire as a weapon

If your agency doesn't have a plan for how to deal with fire as a weapon, it's time to get to work


Fire has been with us since the beginning of time, and has always been an effective and efficient weapon. It's viciously destructive, spreads rapidly, is difficult to contain, and is extremely lethal in dense, urban areas. It's portable, cheap, easily concealed and easy to use. It's especially effective as a terror weapon because humans have a deep, innate fear of it – while people may rush to the sound of guns out of curiosity, few would ever willingly go into a fire.

Fire is dramatic. Flames and smoke are not only powerful weapons, they are powerful images that play well on television. This combination of deadly efficiency and visual impact makes fire a perfect choice to attract the media attention terrorists need to spread their message and influence.

Despite its common nature, the law enforcement community is often ill prepared to deal with fire. Many law enforcement officials view fire as the domain of their firefighter brethren, with no plans to become involved outside of establishing a perimeter for crowd and traffic control. 

While this division of labor might work at a fire scene with no criminal component, it fails to address those situations where fire is used as a weapon by an active attacker. In this scenario, fire crews cannot assault the fire unless the criminal threat is first countered by law enforcement.

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