A 'Zippo Raid' was slang used by American forces in Vietnam during their time there (1965-1973). Nearly all American military and most American civilians in Vietnam carried Zippo lighters, whether to light cigarettes, pot, or just a fire to heat C rations. As the fighting between the Viet Cong and the U.S. forces intensified, the measures taken became less and less discriminatory. One of the most common actions during the 'search and destroy' phase of the war was the practice of destroying villages which were thought to be harboring Viet Cong fighters or supporting their actions. Since most village structures in Vietnam were highly flammable, being built of cane, wood and straw roofs, once the villagers had been cleared (or, unfortunately, even if they hadn't) the fastest and easiest method of destruction was to simply ignite the roofs of the huts (known as hootches), which burned strongly and fast. The iconic Zippo lighter was the tool of choice for this, and most photographs or films of American or ARVN troops torching settlements included a shot of a Zippo setting straw alight. As a result, the operations where this occurred became known as 'Zippo raids.'

As troops returned from the war, the phrase 'zippo raid' came to be used for any incident of arson.