/ Public Education & Classes
/ Juvenile Firesetters InterventionJuvenile Firesetters Intervention Program
It starts, almost always, with just a match and a piece of paper; nothing complicated or intricate.
The flame from the match eats its way across to the paper. The paper begins to crackle and curl. It gives off heat, smoke, and light. The glow lights the face of the fire starter. It is an intelligent face; a young face; a child's face. One fire out of four is definitely set by someone, the evidence that survives indicates that 40 to 70 percent of those deliberately set fires are set by children: our children.
The numbers are numbing: American has the highest arson rate in the world. It is estimated that property losses from arson will exceed $1.5 billion this year. Fire is the leading cause of property damage loss, according to the National School Safety Center. Of that fire total, $90 million is known arson, almost all of it the result of fires started by children.
Arson is the leading crime of violence committed by children in the United States. More than half off all arsonists arrested in the past 10 years have been under 18; nearly a quarter of those under 10. What's more, those who are responding to the juvenile firesetting problem say the average young perpetrator is between 5 and 9, far younger than the FBI's criminal statistics indicate.
Children, we're beginning to realize, set fires for predictable reasons: curiosity, frustration, mischief, and sometimes, malice. Two-thirds of all young fire setters don't really know what they're doing, although they usually have a reason for their actions. For a child between two and seven, fire play is a natural, though dangerous, part of growing up and exploring the world around them, but that doesn't make those children criminals.
Children need to be taught about fire as a safety issue, they need to understand when to light fires. With very young children ages two to four, child-proofing the home is still a proper strategy-keeping the matches and lighters out of reach and keeping the children a ways form potential fire sources. Talking to children is also important. As is true with most child-development problems, once children learn the rules, most outgrow fire play and learn to take a responsible interest in fire prevention and safety.
Parents instinctively equate fire setting with a criminal act, since fire departments and court systems have always presented it in this manner. There needs to be a more comfortable feeling on the part of parents. Every fire set by a child should not be considered arson. Certainly there are some that are intentional and malicious, which is the traditional definition of arson, but just because you have a child who plays with matches doesn't criminal activity has taken place.
It is all of our responsibility to inform and educate the children to the problems associated with fire. Mothers, fathers, teachers, and professional firefighters alike, have the responsibility to teach the children. Do your part to help the children in your life understand what fire is, how it can help and most of all…how it can hurt!
If we may be of assistance to you on a matter of Juvenile fire setting, prevention, or education, please feel free to contact us at 503-390-9111 or email Public Education Specialist Anne-Marie Penge.
Last Updated: 12/10/2009 8:30:30 PM