JUVENILE FIRE SETTERS
Fireplay...A Deadly Game
Fireplay is a deadly game that should not be dismissed as a "phase" or simple "curiosity". Records show that at least 50% of the approximate 600,000 residential fires in the United States are set by children. Children must be properly supervised and educated about fire's destructive power.
Fire departments nationwide are implementing special programs to identify and stop juvenile firesetting. Early detection and treatment are essential to prevent normal childhood curiosity from turning into disaster.
Juvenile firesetting can be prevented when parents, teachers, firefighters, law enforcement and all caregivers become aware of firesetting.
Profile Of A Firesetter
CURIOUS FIRESETTERS: Many young children are fascinated by matches and lighters but don't know about fire's destructive consequences. Children set fires because of curiosity or accidentally because of poor judgement. Young children love to imitate adults who light cigarettes, candles or fireplaces. Unfortunately, many lack parental supervision or education about fire safety.
TROUBLED FIRESETTERS: Mental and emotional disturbances can cause firesetting behavior. Ages of troubled firesetters can range from preschoolers through teenagers. These children often set fires as a way to act out anger, frustration and feelings of being powerless.
DELINQUENT FIRESETTERS: These are youths usually in their teens with a history of starting fires. They set fires as acts of vandalism or for creating excitement and destroying property. Usually strongly influenced by their peers, they use fire to cause malicious mischief or rebel against authority. Abandoned buildings, open fields and schools are common targets. Most of these firesetters have a history of antisocial behavior, lying, stealing, truancy and drugs.
SEVERELY DISTURBED FIRESETTERS: These youths often have a long history of behavioral problems. Their symptoms usually fall into two major personality types labeled as "Impulsive Neurotic" and "Borderline Psychotic". Many of these firesetters are in state mental or correctional institutions.
The fire service recommends the following:
Always keep matches and lighters out of reach of small children.
Be emphatic: Tell the child "No! You are not to play with matches and lighters! They can burn and hurt you!"
Always supervise a young child in a room where an open flame is present (fireplaces, candles, heaters).
Teach young children that matches and lighters are tools, not toys. With adult supervision, demonstrate how you cautiously use these tools.
Closely supervise and teach a child how safely to strike a match or light a candle.
Never leave young children unattended, even for a short period of time.
Hire only experienced, trained babysitters.
Teach children about fire when they first show interest. Discuss the proper use of fire and how destructive fire is if not used safely.
Firefighters who interview juvenile firesetters and their parents, are trained to evaluate the child's firesetting behavior. If the fire is set because of simple curiosity or poor judgment, a recommendation may be made for enrolling the child in an intensive fire safety education program. These programs are highly successful in preventing firesetting because of curiosity.
In the case of a troubled or disturbed child, parents are referred to mental health services where the child can receive special help. If parents resist or refuse, legal action may be necessary. In some cases the firesetter has to be referred to the child protective services or juvenile police section. Adolescent firesetters are evaluated to determine if their fires are set because of criminal intention. Some may have serious mental disorders needing psychiatric attention.
The lead agency in Bergen County for juvenile fire setters is the Bergen County Juvenile Fire Prevention Program 17-07 Romaine Street Fairlawn, NJ 07410 201-797-2660 ext. 144 in conjunction with Care Plus NJ, Inc. Mid Bergen Center 610 Valley Health Plaza Paramus, NJ 07652 201-265-8200. Both work hand in hand with the fire service to prevent this growing problem with children. To learn how to refer a child into this program, click on the link below....
COUNTY JUVENILE FIRE PREVENTION PROGRAM
C/O CARE PLUS NJ, INC.
ATTN: LAURA LYGAS, MFT, LPC
Remember....Fire Safety Is A Family Matter!
In the time it takes you to read this sentence, a child could change their life and the lives of their family with the strike of just one match....Make fire safety a family matter. Learn everything you can about fire safety and make it a part of your family's life!