Young firesetters cause hundreds of deaths and injuries each year. Preschoolers and kindergartners are most likely to start these fires, typically by playing with matches and lighters, and are most likely to die in them.
Children and fire are a deadly combination. Some children play with fire out of curiosity, not realizing its danger. Troubled children may set a fire as a way of acting out their anger, disappointment or frustration. If you suspect your child is intentionally setting fires or unusually fascinated with fire, get help. Your local fire department, school, or community counseling agency can put you in touch with trained experts who know how to teach children about fire in an appropriate way.
*If your fire department does not have a trained Juvenile Firesetting Intervention Specialist to assist, please contact the State Fire Marshal’s Office for resources.
· Children experience fire interest. They may ask questions such as how hot is fire or show an interest in fire through playing with fire trucks or cooking on a play stove. This is healthy, and it is time to begin educating about fire.
· Firestarting happens when children begin to experiment with fire using matches and lighters. Many fires happen when young children are left alone, even for a short period of time, and have access to matches and lighters. Parents must have clear rules and consequences about fire misuse.
· Grown-ups can help keep fire out of the hands of children.
· Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach and sight, up high, preferably in a locked cabinet or container.
· Never leave matches or lighters in a bedroom or any place where children may go without supervision.
· Teach young children and school-age children to tell a grown-up if they see matches or lighters. Children need to understand that fire is difficult to control, it is fast and can hurt as soon as it touches you.
· A child with an interest in fire can lead to fire starting and result in repeated firesetting behavior.
· It is important for grown-ups to discourage unsupervised fire starts.
· Never use lighters or matches as a source of amusement for children; they may imitate you.
· Lighters that look like toys can confuse children and cause fires, injuries, and death. Do not buy or use them.
· Never assign a young child any tasks that involve the use of a lighter or matches (lighting candles, bringing a lighter to an adult to light a cigarette or the fireplace, etc.)
· If your child expresses curiosity about fire or has been playing with fire, calmly but firmly explain that matches and lighters are tools for adults only.
· Use only lighters designed with child-resistant features. Remember, child-resistant does not mean childproof.