Fire Prevention for Parents

Remember to change your smoke detector battery at least once a year!

Children & Fire
Children playing with matches and lighters is a leading cause of fires both nationally and locally. The number of fires set by children is growing. It is a problem that needs the attention of parents, teachers, counselors and community leaders, in cooperation with fire and law enforcement officials.

Dealing With a Child's Curiosity About Fire
There is a 3-step approach to dealing with children and their curiosity with fire.

Step One: Teach Your Child About Fire
  • "What is Fire?" Fire is a natural energy source which provides heat, light and energy. Fire is a tool that we use in our everyday lives to produce heat, cook food and heat our homes.
  • Fire can be dangerous. It is a useful tool when used properly by adults. It is not a toy or plaything.
  • Fire can easily get out of control. Only adults can safely use fire and must follow special fire safety rules.
Step Two: Control Your Child's Access to Fire
  • Create a safe home environment for your family.
  • Keep all matches and lighters out of reach of young children. A 2 year old child can operate a lighter or strike a match.
  • Never - not even for a moment - leave a stove, lighted candle or fire in a fireplace unattended.
  • Fire can become a magnet to a child.
  • Teach your children that matches and lighters are too dangerous to touch. Children should never pick up or handle matches or lighters they may find, instead, they should be taught to show parents where these items are.
  • Remember to praise your children for following your instructions.
Step Three: Set A Good Example
  • Children learn by watching and imitating adults. Set a good example.
  • If you smoke, remember to keep all smoking materials, matches, and lighters out of the reach of children.
  • Children should not be allowed to light birthday candles, barbecue grills or fireplace fires. This activity may pique their interest and lead to additional fire curiosity and experimentation on their own.
  • Point out the safety precautions you use for cooking, heating, fire safety.
  • Remember to post emergency numbers by the telephone.
Why Children Set Fires
Most experts agree that the best way to understand fire setting behavior is to look at where and why children set fires. They believe there are 2 basic types of children who start fires:

Curiosity Fire Setters
Curiosity Fire Setters usually are 2-7 year olds whose fascination with fire leads them to "play" with it to find out how it feels, how it burns, and what it does. They do not understand fire's destructive potential and power to grow out of control.

Although curiosity is a normal part of children's growth and development, parents and other adults who discover that a child is playing with fire should take it very seriously.

Problem Fire Setters

Problem Fire Setters can also be very young, but are generally 5-17 years old. In contrast to the curious fire setter, these youngsters light fires because of anger and/or emotional or mental disturbances ranging from mild to severe. A crisis in the child's life, such as moving to a new area, a divorce, school problems or death in the family could trigger fire setting behavior. Or, a more serious disturbance, could be the cause.

Data compiled on juvenile fire setters has revealed traits common in many of these children. These include chronic behaviors such as a poor relationship with other children, cruelty to animals and extreme mood changes.