Every year, children playing with fire causes thousands of residential fires in the United States. Heating, arson, and children playing with fire-setting materials were the three leading causes of home fires, accounting for more than half of the multiple-fatality home fires.
The Need: Fire and Children’s Behavior
Fire both fascinates and frightens us. It is a dynamic tool critical to our survival. When fire is intentionally misused, however, it can devastate. Any time a child plays with fire, that child and everyone around him or her is at risk.
Interest in fire is a normal part of our growth, and a child’s natural curiosity about our environment can lead to experimentation. Children need to be educated in the proper use of fire and the consequences of its dangers. However, some children have stresses in their lives that cause them to vent their frustrations, leading to destructive actions. When this involves fire, intervention becomes necessary.
If you discover that a child is involved with fireplay, do not ignore it. Someone needs to address it in a thoughtful way by evaluating the cause, determining the proper corrective action, and following through. This is where CCFR’s Firestopper Program comes in.
The Firestopper Program has been professionally designed by the U.S. Fire Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Association. In it, trained fire service personnel identify the motivations behind a child’s fireplay/firesetting and recommend a course of action.
Firesetting is divided into four levels:
- Fireplay: Interest in fire
- Small fires: Fires without losses or fire department response
- Larger fires: Out-of-control fires with losses and fire department response
- Major fires: Out-of-control fires large losses of property, and possibly injuries or fatalities
No fireplay, regardless of how small, should be dismissed.
There are two general categories into which juvenile firesetters fall:
- Curiosity: This is a normal expression of interest in their environment and an attempt to learn about it.
- Problematic: This area is of greater concern, as the child may be undergoing delinquency, crisis, or pathological problems.
The solution to the problem may involve educational intervention and/or referral to certified mental health professionals.
If you believe your child has an abnormal interest in fire and would like to enroll him/her in the Firestopper Program, contact the business office to schedule an appointment at 636-970-9700.
The program usually involves two sessions, held at the fire station. The first session is the screening process, when program staff gathers information through a series of interview questions. It normally takes about an hour and can be scheduled at your convenience. Following this session, program staff members evaluate the responses and send a letter describing the results and recommending a course of action.
The second session, if necessary, is an educational session recommended for the entire family. The firesetter usually has fire safety homework and some form of restitution for any damages from the fireplay.
For the problematic cases, staff members refer the firesetter to a mental health professional, and recommend that the family follow through. All program files are confidential.
This program is provided to our citizens at no charge.