Curious Kids Set Fires

A Factsheet for Teaching Children Fire Safety:

Every day Americans experience the tragedy of fire. Each year more than 4,000 Americans die in fires and more than 25,000 are injured. Figures show that each year about 300 people are killed and $280 million in property is destroyed in fires attributed to children playing with fire.
The United States Fire Administration (USFA) encourages parents to teach children at an early age about the dangers of fireplay in an effort to prevent child injuries, fires and firesetting behavior in the future. Below are some facts about children and fire safety.

Children under five are curious about fire. Often what begins as a natural exploration of the unknown can lead to tragedy.
  • Children of all ages set over 100,000 fires annually. Approximately 20,000 of those fires are set in homes.
  • Children make up 20% of all fires.
  • Over 30% of the fires that kill children are set by children playing with fire.
  • At home, children usually play with fire in bedrooms, in closets and under beds. These are "secret" places where there are a lot of things that catch fire easily.
  • Too often, child firesetters are not given proper guidance and supervision by parents and teachers.
  • Consequently, they repeat their firesetting behavior.
  • Supervise young children closely. Do not leave them alone even for short periods of time.
  • Keep matches and lighters in a secured drawer or cabinet.
  • Have your children tell you when they find matches and lighters.
  • Check under beds and in closets for burned matches, evidence your child may be playing with fire.
  • Develop a home fire escape plan, practice it with your children and designate a meeting place outside.
  • Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching children that fire is a tool, not a toy.
  • Teach children the nature of fire. It is FAST, HOT, DARK and DEADLY!
  • Teach children not to hide from firefighters, but to get out quickly and call for help from another location.
  • Show children how to crawl low on the floor, below the smoke, to get out of the house and stay out in the case of fire.
  • Demonstrate how to stop, drop to the ground and roll if their clothes catch fire.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level in your home.
  • Familiarize children with the sound of your smoke alarm.
  • Test the smoke alarm each month and replace the battery at least once a year.
  • Replace the smoke alarm every ten years, or as recommended by the manufacturer.

For More Information Contact:
The United States Fire Administration
Office of Fire Management Programs
16825 South Seton Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727

Juvenile Firesetting


About one in every four fires is intentionally set -- and almost half of these fires was set by youth under the age of 18.

Arson is a serious crime.  It injures and kills people, destroys properties, and destabilizes neighborhoods.

According to the FBI, juvenile firesetters accounted for roughly half (at least 49%) or more of those arrested for arson -- for the ninth straight year.

In 2003, 51% of those arrested were under 18, nearly one-third were under the age of 15, and 3% were under the age of 10.

Studies have shown that the majority of normal children possess an interest in fire and nearly half have engaged in fire-play.  For many young people, the attraction to fire leads to juvenile fire-play and firesetting -- fire-starting activity that fire investigators determine to be short of arson.  This behavior may be a precursor for the crime of arson.

Click here to get more information on  Juvenile Firesetting.




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