Juvenile Firesetter Program
Juvenile firesetting has been identified as the fastest growing fire threat in the United States. Annual statistics show that more than 300 people are killed, and nearly $300 million dollars in property is destroyed by fires set by children. More than 30-percent of the victims are the children themselves.
CHILDREN AND FIRE CAN BE A DEADLY COMBINATION - THE FACTS
- Nearly 34-percent of the victims of child-set fires are the children themselves.
- Nationally, playing with fire is the leading cause of death in residential fires for young children.
- At home, children often play with fire in the bedroom – where lots of things catch on fire easily.
- Older children frequently play with fire outside the home, at the bus stop, or in vacant lots.
- Children are under the false impression that they can control the fires they set.
- Many children who set fires lack both parental supervision and fire safety education.
- Juveniles account for more than 50-percent of all arson arrests in the United States.
- Nationally, children who play with fire cause nearly 80,000 structure fires per year which result in approximately 760 deaths and more than 3,500 injuries.
- Juvenile firesetting does an estimated 1.2 Billion dollars in damage annually.
- It only takes about two-minutes for the flame from a single match to set an entire room on fire, and less than five minutes for that fire to overtake an entire house.
- Juvenile arson and youth-set fires result in over 300 deaths and 2,000 injuries annually, and $300 million in property damage and more than 400,000 incidents annually (USFA)
- Children playing with fire cause 40 percent of residential fire-related deaths among children.
Before you can begin to understand firesetting behavior, you must first look at where and why children set fires. Experts believe that there are two basic types of children who start fires.
Curiosity is the most common reason children play with fire. Children want to know how fire looks and feels, what it can do, and how it burns. They may also try to imitate adults by lighting candles, cigarettes and fireplaces. What begins as a natural exploration of the unknown can often lead to tragedy because children do not understand fire’s destructive potential.
Problem firesetters are generally between the ages of 5-17 and may set fires because of emotional of mental disturbances ranging from mild to severe. A change or crisis in the child’s life such as a move, a divorce or a death could trigger firesetting behavior. Some behavioral traits that have been linked to firesetting behavior include poor relationships with other children, extreme mood changes and cruelty to animals.
Is it normal for children to play with matches?
- While curiosity about fire is common, some children light fires for other reasons. A change or crisis such as a move, death or divorce, may result in firesettting. This behavior can be the child's way of acting out fear or anxiety. Some children set fires to get attention or to oppose authority. Other behaviors in addition to firesetting may reflect more serious emotional problems and require the services of community mental health professionals. Proper intervention can help juveniles who set fires.
Is it a phase?
- Juvenile firesetting is extremely dangerous and should not be dismissed as a phase or simple curiosity. Do not ignore it! Left alone it may cause severe property damage or even loss of life. Early recognition and treatment of firesetting can help prevent tragedies in the future.
My child lit a small fire, should I be concerned?
- Every fire starts small. Fire moves fast and can get out of control very quickly. Any time a child starts a fire, he endangers himself and the people around him.
Educate Your Children That:
- Fire is a tool, not a toy.
- Fire is dangerous and it can kill
- All fires, even small ones, can spread quickly
Other Things You Can Do:
- Supervise children at all times - almost all fires start when children are unsupervised.
- Store matches and lighters in a secure place away from a child’s reach.
- Occasionally check under your child’s bed and inside the closets for burned match. Parents often discover the first signs of evidence that a child may be playing with fire.
- Use a "Don't Touch!" approach with children under 5 years old. Teach older children to bring matches to you. Reward them with praise when they do.
- If an older child is curious about matches, demonstrate the proper and safe way to use them. Explain that it is important to use matches only when an adult is present.
Practice Home Fire Safety
- Install and maintain smoke alarms.
- Know two ways out of every room.
- Show children how to crawl low under smoke.
- Teach your children how to STOP, DROP and ROLL, if their clothes catch on fire and how to COOL a burn and CALL 9-1-1.
- Set a good example and make fire safety a family matter.
- Create and practice a family fire escape plan.
The number of fires set by children is growing. If you suspect or find evidence that your child is setting fires, you should be concerned!
The Juvenile Firesetter Program works directly with your family to provide valuable fire and burn prevention education including the consequences of playing with fire.
The Juvenile Firesetter Program consists of one 2-hour session held at the Burn Institute. It requires the participation of the child and at least one parent or guardian. The session is set in a casual setting where confidential interviews are conducted with the child and parent to determine the reason behind the firesetting behavior. Trust is built through a mutual agreement, and at the end of the session, a contract is drawn up between the child, parent, and the Burn Institute stating that fire is a tool and needs to be used carefully and responsibly.