Psychiatric, psychosocial and medicolegal issues related to 34 arsonists and 50 controls are described. Arson was most frequently committed by males who suffered from personality disorder, mental retardation or depressive neurosis. Poor school and work records also characterized their background when compared to the control forensic psychiatric patients. The offence more frequently occurred within a one mile radius of their own home in residential property. Revenge or a “cry for help” was the most frequent motivation for the firesetting activity.