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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 Dep
artment and learn how you can get involved in the Fire Stoppers of King County Program.


The Problem
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 preschool-age children.

The Solution
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 necessary.

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.

Understanding Firesetting
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 their actions.


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.

Delinquent Behavior

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 -

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 aid.
  • 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.