Your child has played with fire.
Your child has deliberately set a fire.
You are unsure of how to teach your
child about fire safety.
Contact your local Fire Department
and learn how you can get involved in the Fire Stoppers of King County Program.
Approximately every two hours, someone dies as a result of fire.
Every 21 minutes, someone is hurt with fire. Each year in this country,
fires set by children take hundreds of lives and cause millions of dollars
of property loss. Many times, the victims of these fires are the children
themselves. Children using fire is the leading cause of fire death in
Increased knowledge about fire and the appropriate actions
to be taken are imperative to reducing youth set fires. Immediate intervention
and participation in a prevention program such as Fire Stoppers of King
County can also help in reducing repeat fire-play/sets. The Fire Stoppers
program is designed not only for the child involved in the fire activity,
but also to help the parent/caregiver understand the factors that lead
to youth firesetting:
- Lack of understanding
- Easy access to matches and lighters
- Lack of supervision for children
- Psychological factors
These factors must be addressed
along with fire safety education in order to prevent continued inappropriate
and dangerous use of fire by children.
What is Firestoppers of King County?
Fire Stoppers is a collaborative effort between the King County
Fire and Life Safety Association, Arson
Alarm Foundation and Bellevue Community Services. Local fire
departments have come together to meet the objective of this program,
which is to establish a comprehensive regional youth firesetting
intervention program, that will reduce the incidents of fireplay
and firesetting by children and adolescents. This is accomplished
through early identification of youth at risk, an interview to
determine level of risk, consistent education for the entire family,
and a referral to a qualified mental health agency when determined
The success of this program is attributed
to it’s strong coalition, inclusive of representatives from law enforcement,
juvenile justice, fire service, mental health, business/non-profits, schools
and the media. The Fire Stoppers program format provides both education
and mental health treatment for young people who exhibit firesetting behavior.
It is essential that the safety needs of the families and the community
be given significant consideration and be made the priority. With this
in mind, the approach given to each incident of youth-set fires or fire
play throughout King County is accomplished in a consistent and comprehensive
manner by trained professionals.
What is firesetting?
Firesetting is the term used to describe the behavior
of children who use fire in a way that is dangerous or not approved by
a parent or caregiver. The term firesetter does not mean that a child
has a problem. But it does mean that the child and family need additional
education about the danger and proper uses of fire. Through education,
and in some cases counseling, children can be given the skills to change
this dangerous behavior.
When a child starts a fire and is found playing
with matches or lighters, caregivers need to act appropriately. Thinking
a child will “out grow” this behavior is not a solution. Contacting your
local fire department and asking for help can put an end to this dangerous
behavior. Most local fire departments can provide fire safety education
for the entire family. Those that are members of the Fire Stoppers Network
have a specific program in place and resources available immediately to
help children who have been involved with fire. Do not put off dealing
with this behavior. Fire is a devastating and deadly force.
By identifying the behavioral factos behind firesetting, professionals
can determine the level of risk and the appropriate action can be taken.
The majority of children fall into the following classifications:
Nearly 70 percent of youth involved with
firesetting are drawn to it by curiosity. The opportunity is usually
there for these children because they have easy access to the fire tools
and are not properly supervised. He or she decides to “see what fire
will do.” They don’t typically think about or understand the danger of
Sometimes a child is exposed to a number
of stressful situations, live in challenging environments or lack the
maturity or skills necessary to cope with life’s challenges. They may
be older in age and become upset about something and not be able to express
themselves. Often, they will light a fire as a way to let grown-ups know
they need help. In many cases, firesetting is in reaction to a problem.
Youth involved in this level of firesetting
do so for many reasons. Many start a fire as a prank or in response to
a dare. Sometimes it is to cover up other crimes like vandalism or theft.
Often, these youth don’t realize the consequences for these actions. This
is a situation where counseling will be recommended and may be required
by the juvenile court system.
Regardless of the level of risk
the child is at, it's important for parents or caregivers to follow through
with the recommendations given by the interventionist. Refusing to change
the circumstances that may have motivated the fire-setting behavior is
very dangerous. If nothing changes for a child, the firesetting will
most likely continue and very likely escalate.
For more information about Youth Firesetting
access - www.sosfires.com
What Parents/caregivers can do to help
prevent children from setting fires
- Set a good example, If you smoke, be very responsible in your use
of matches and lighters. Children learn by watching you.
- Keep matches and lighters out of children’s sight and reach. Even
toddlers can use lighters and matches to start a fire.
- Teach your school age children to Give Matches and lighters to a
grown-up and to “stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches on
fire. tell them not to run, this will fan the flames and make them
bigger. Stop right where they are, drop to the floor and roll over
and over until the flames are out, then call 9-1-1 for emergency medical
- Teach children the safe and proper ways to use fire. Be sure they
understand a responsible grown-up should only use it.
- Smoke detectors save lives. Make sure you have a working smoke
detector in your house, and practice your family escape plan.