Arson is the intentional burning of property, namely the dwelling house or business premises of another. The most usual motives for intentionally burning property are to collect fire insurance; to conceal the existence of some other crime; to obtain revenge upon the owner; to punish the owner, generally a merchant for failure to pay demanded extortion money; and to experience the excitement of watching the blaze.
Intentionally starting or maintaining a fire or causing an explosion which endangers a person or a building or causes substantial property damage is a crime. This is distinguished from arson in that destruction of the property is not the intent and generally is considered a lesser offence.
In the UK, arson attacks resulted in the loss of 350 million lbs of military stores in 1983 and 1988. In the later case 70% of the equipment destroyed was essential for operational effectiveness. In the UK in 1992 it was also estimated that 40% of the fires, leading to £500 million in claims, were fraudulent. In London there were 5,911 arson cases in 1991. Whilst many are acts of vandalism, investigators consider that a growing number are carried out by owners of businesses that are close to bankruptcy. Arson has the additional advantage of destroying any evidence of fraud.
In 1995 in Greece, three self-proclaimed anarchist groups claimed responsibility for setting ablaze one of Athens' major forests, causing a fire that destroyed more than 6,000 hectares. The group said that the fires were aimed at rich landowners, so that they would realize what it is like to live in an area with no greenery. The fire destroyed more than 25 villas and buildings. It raged out of control for three days. About 1,000 fire-fighters tried to bring it under control before it would spread into thickly populated areas.