The Modesto Fire Department offers families help in dealing with child fire setters through the
Youthful Fire Setter Prevention Program. The mission of the program is to change the fire setting
behavior in children and young adults.
Here's how the program works
A representative from the Modesto Fire Department contacts the parents or guardians by telephone
and schedules an interview to determine the severity of the fire setting problem. The
representative then meets with the youth to share fire safety information and educate on the
consequences of fire setting. A final meeting is set between the representative, parents/guardians,
and youth to provide additional fire prevention education. The representative follows up with a
telephone call two to three weeks following the final interview. A referral may be made to a family
counseling agency as needed.
For more information, email Youthful Firesetters Program at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lighters account for 44% of all youth-started fires and matches account for 31%.
- In 2002, children playing with fire started an estimated 13,900 structure fires, causing an
estimated 210 civilian deaths, 1250 injuries and $339 million in direct property damage.
- Half of all arson arrests are juveniles.
All children are curious about fire. This curiosity is normal and healthy. However, children
who become fire setters usually have underlying problems which need to be addressed. Typically,
they will not stop on their own without intervention. Whatever the motivation for the fire setter,
tragedies can and do occur.
Curious Fire Setter
The “curious fire setter” is interested in matches or lighters, has a fascination with fire, is
very curious about the environment, is determined to learn about it and does not understand the
consequences of fire.
The fires they set are usually started with matches or lighters using ordinary and available
materials like paper, cloth or carpeting. They are often in “hidden” locations like a closet or
Crying for Help Fire Setter
This fire setter sets numerous fires and often continues to set fires despite punishment. The child
usually has trouble in school, is hyperactive, impulsive or destructive, may lie or steal and may
have attention deficit disorder.
Any child can be a potential fire setter. Curiosity about fire is part of a child’s growing
process, especially between the ages of 3 and 9. The majority of fires set by children are set
out of curiosity or experimentation. Fire setting behavior in some children is a way of expressing
feelings of frustration, unhappiness and need. They may be angry over changes in the home or at
school, and will use fire to get the attention they need.
If you discover evidence of match play or notice an unusual attraction to flame, don’t try to frighten or scare your child. Don’t punish your child for his or her natural curiosity. Instead, talk to your child in a calm, assured manner, explaining your worry for their safety. Teach your child about fire as a tool not a toy. Control your child’s access to fire and most of all, set a good example.
Fire Safety Check List
You can be prepared in the event of a fire emergency by following these guidelines:
- Install and maintain smoke detectors.
- Develop and practice a home escape plan, and select a place outside for everyone to meet after leaving the house.
- Plan two exists from every room in your home.
- Crawl low under smoke.
- If your clothes are on fire, don’t panic –STOP, DROP, and ROLL.
- Do not re-enter a burning building.
- Call the fire department from a neighbor’s house.
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