Invited paper: Legitimacy of fire use: investigating the Continuum of Fire Use Theory (CoFUT)

Jade Danielle Hope*, Faye Kathryn Horsley

*Corresponding author for this work

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Most individuals regularly encounter fire, but certain uses are legally disallowed. Horsley (2020, 2021; in press) proposed the continuum of fire use theory (CoFUT), which posits that the legitimacy of fire use exists on a spectrum. This study aims to investigate the CoFUT and to elucidate the process of conceptualising legitimacy in a sample of legitimate fire users.

A sample of 16 legitimate fire users underwent semi-structured interviews regarding their own experiences with fire, the factors considered when determining the legitimacy of fire use and the relationships between those factors. The data extracted was subjected to conceptual analysis.

Analysis indicated that the legitimacy of fire use is best conceptualised along a continuum. Placement on the continuum required consideration of seven defining attributes: function; location; scale; materials used; characteristics of the actor(s); potential and actual consequences, and social acceptance. These attributes were shown to have interactive semantic relationships with one another.

Practical implications
A continuum approach to understanding fire use is a novel conceptualisation. Exposing the nuances that exist along the continuum could inform early intervention strategies aimed at fostering healthy relationships between young people and fire. Furthermore, practitioners working with arsonists would benefit from adopting a continuum perspective that allows for consideration of offenders’ individualised trajectory “up and down” the continuum of fire use.

Findings offer support for the CoFUT (2020; 2021; in press) and provide insight into how the legitimacy of fire use is conceptualised in legitimate fire users.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice
Issue number1
Early online date7 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


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