Arson is a crime of intentionally, deliberately and maliciously setting fire to buildings, wild land areas, abandoned homes, vehicles or other property with the intent to cause damage. It may be distinguished from other causes such as spontaneous combustion, accidental fires (smoking in bed, e.g.) and natural wildfires. Arson often involves fires deliberately set to the property of another or to one's own property in order to collect insurance compensation.
A person who commits this crime is called an arsonist. More often than not, arsonists use accelerants (such as gasoline or kerosene) to ignite, propel and directionalize fires. Pyromania, a term related to arson, is a impulse-control disorder defined by the pathological setting of fires, but most acts of arson are not commited by pyromaniacs.
Degrees of arson sometimes depends on the value of the burned down property but more commonly on its use.
- First-degree arson - Occupied structures such as public places like schools.
- Second-degree - Unoccupied buildings, like unoccupied houses, in order to claim insurance on such property.
- Third-degree - Burning a certain abandoned area. This includes forests, woods and fields.