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Juvenile Fire Setters Program

The Fire Prevention Bureau has a team of inspectors and investigators that reaches out to local youth that have started fires in the past. This team works with those individuals to show them the dangers of playing with fire, keeping them from such behaviors in the future. For further information, please contact the Youthful Fire Setter Intervention Program at 779-500-6541.

The Problem

“Children playing with matches”, “Juvenile Fire Setting”, “Fire Starters” These are all phrases that describe a problem which has been receiving growing attention. In a report by the United States Fire Administration, where age was cited as a factor in a fire’s ignition by lighters or matches, 37% if those fires were started by juveniles aged 10-17. Most experts agree the best way to understand a child’s fire setting behavior is by looking at the context and motivation for the behavior. There are three types of fire setters, and for each type, a different strategy is used to stop the behavior.

The Risk Levels

Type 1- Little Risk

  • usually 3-7 years old
  • mostly boys
  • possibly hyperactive
  • usually alone, in a closet, or under a bed
  • fire is of hidden origin and where ordinary combustibles are lit with either matches or a lighter
  • usually panics when the fire gets out of control

Type 2- Definite Risk

  • usually 7-12 years old
  • mostly boys
  • sudden change in life or recent stress/trauma
  • could be alone
  • child is using fire as a “cry for help” to show his inability to cope with sudden change

Type 3- Extreme Risk

  • usually 10-14 years old
  • almost always boys
  • history of school and social problems
  • almost always alone
  • other aggressive and problem behaviors
  • fires are random or ritualized, usually in or around the home
  • there is no clear cut motivation for the fire setting

The Precautions

Teach young children that fire is a tool we use for cooking or to heat our home. Keep all matches and lighters out of reach of very young children. Praise or reward children when they bring matches or lighters to you. Explain why it is important to use matches only when needed and with an adult present. Examples must be set. Always be careful with matches and fire. Keep your home safe and let your children help you.

The Solution

If you think your child or you know a child who has a fire setting problem, regardless of the perceived risk levels, please contact the Rockford Fire Department Youthful Fire Setters Program at 779-500-6541 to set up an appointment for evaluation and education.