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Crime commonly defined by statute as the unlawful damage or destruction of property by means of fire or explosion. In nearly all countries (except Great Britain) an arsonist is guilty of murder if someone dies as a result of his action, even if he did not intend to kill. Germany and some U.S. states also impose serious penalties for arson when it is committed to conceal or destroy evidence of another crime. Although fire caused by accident or ordinary carelessness is not arson, a person may be guilty of arson if he causes a fire in reckless disregard of the consequences of his actions.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on arson, visit Britannica.com.