Pyromania

Pyromania

Arson is one of the crimes which in their results come closest to the experiences of the State Fire Marshals and chiefs of fire departments, and cause them more anxiety than almost any other form of lawbreaking. The arsonist not only is a despicable and cowardly criminal, but also he, in most cases, displays almost an unnatural cunning in the performance of his crimes, and is one of the hardest of the offenders to convict, owing to this fact. The skill that an incendiary sometimes displays in covering up the traces of his evil act, would, if exercised in the legitimate pursuit of business or professional life, place him in the forefront of his line. But, of all of this class of criminals that those charged with their apprehension and conviction, have to deal with, the most difficult are the so-called pyromaniacs, for besides the usual cunning that accompanies this type of lawbreaking, this particular group of incendiaries possess the irresponsibility of insanity. A paper, written by State Fire Marshal Ole O. Roe, of Iowa, dealing with this class is published on the first reading page of this issue of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING, and in it this eminent authority cites several characteristic instances of the manifestation of this particular form of lunacy, and recounts the difficulties his department has encountered in dealing with such cases. In referring to this matter, Mr. Roe sounds this warning: “There is also a class of persons who are mentally unbalanced and who possess an unnatural desire to watch fire as it burns. These people sometimes start very destructive fires simply for the purpose of seeing the blaze. Such people are termed pyromaniacs. As soon as a child or other person shows unnatural tendency to start or enjoy a fire, such person should be carefully watched, as it may be necessary do restrain him. Not a few fires are annually started by persons who, when discovered, are found to be mentally irresponsible.”

Mr. Roe suggests as a possible alleviation of this condition and the prevention of its alarming increase among the young, that “Education, which in its scope must include saner and purer social relations and gentler living, will in time alleviate, though perhaps never entirely cure, this and other maladies of the mind.”

PYROMANIA.

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PYROMANIA.

That there is a special form of mental disorder that leads to acts of incendiarism is asserted by Dr. Raoul Leroy, a French physician, who name’s this state “pyromania.” The London Lancet comments thus on the above statement: “The mental state of such incendiaries, says Dr. Leroy, is peculiar and characteristic. They are weak-minded and are often members of families in which epilepsy, insanity or alcoholism occurs. Reference is made to the fact that among the peasant population of Normandy, where alcoholism prevails to a high degree, juvenile crimes of the nature of incendiarism are common. These feeble-minded delinquents are prone to set lire to buildings or other objects in revenge against their owners, or, in some cases, merely to amuse themselves with the spectacle. A few cases, says Dr. Leroy, suffer from the influence of an obsession which irresistibly impels them to such acts, such cases forming a special form of insanity to which the term ‘pyromania’ is applied.” True cases of pyromania show themselves for the hrst time at puberty, and Dr. Leroy concludes that morbid heredity may result in a brain liable to disorder and readily provoked to morbid impulse on the occurrence ot this critical time in mental development.

Washington, D. C., firemen who have served from three to six months get five days’ vacation; six to twelve, ten days; over a year, twenty da vs.