On average, from 2005-2009, over 56,000 fires were reported by United States municipal fire departments from children playing with fire, according to a release from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Fires set by children are a growing problem that need the attention of teachers, parents, counselors and community leaders.
An estimated 110 civilian deaths, 880 civilian injuries and $286 million in property damage were caused from fires started by children playing.
Structure fires accounted for 22% of fires, but 98% of civilian deaths and 93% of property damage.
Outside fires accounted for 75% of the fires and 2% for vehicle fires.
An alarming 66% occurred in or around residential properties.
Why do children set fires?
There are two types of fire-setters:
— Curiosity fire-setters
— Problem fire-setters
In order to understand why children set fires, it is important to know the difference in the two types of fire-setters.
Range from ages two to seven years old.
Have a fascination with fire that will cause them to play with fire to see how it burns, what it feels like and what it does.
Curiosity is normal during a child’s growth and development. However, adults should take a child’s playing with fire very seriously. It is a matter of life and death.
Usually range from ages five to 17 years old.
Exhibit a severe fire-setting problem beyond curiosity.
Light fires due to mild to severe emotional or mental distress.
Examples that could trigger the behavior are: moving to a new area, suffering various types of abuse, divorce or death in the family.
Problem fire-setters can exhibit additional negative behaviors such as cruelty to animals, poor relationships with other children, stealing, bullying or extreme mood changes.
What can you do?
Teach our child about the dangers of fire, and that fire is a tool for grown-ups only. As a family, get to know your local fire department and teach your child about the dangers to the men and women who have to respond to fires.
Control your child’s access to fire by keeping lighters or matches put up.
Set a good example by keeping a fire-safe home and modeling safe behaviors.
Teach your child that everyone needs to take responsibility for fire safety.
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