Youthful Firesetters

Children have a natural curiosity that can be exasperating at times. This curiosity is how children learn about their environment. Unfortunately, fire is so unpredictable and dangerous that a moment of carelessness can result in a lifetime of regret.

Education and information are the best two weapons that a parent/guardian or teacher has to prevent a child from experiencing burn injuries. Teaching the child fire safe behaviors early can reduce the level of curiosity, thereby removing the child's urge to experiment on their own. If you do not know what to teach your child, contact your local fire department.

Not all children start fires because they are curious. Some children use fire to release feelings of anger or depression. These children are probably experiencing other forms of unacceptable behavior as well. A statewide firesetter hotline is available for parents or teachers to access information and resources to deal with these types of children. The hotline number is 1-800-446-1589 and it is monitored 24 hours per day. A trained Youthful Firesetter Intervention Specialist from the Illinois Youthful Firesetter Intervention Association will return your call and offer options for resolving the problem.

Children, for malicious reasons, set some fires. These fires are started to cover up other crimes and are usually premeditated. These types of firesetters are introduced into the legal system and are not a part of the fire safety program.

The Youthful Firesetter program starts with an in depth interview process that allows the Intervention Specialist the ability to meet the family. The interviews are broken into three sections. The first is done with the child. Questions are asked from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) JFS Guidelines. While this interview is being conducted, the parents fill out a parental questionnaire. Finally, the family is brought together and interviewed as a group. All three interviews are then reviewed. Scores from these tests are tabulated and from that information, a decision is made as to how to approach the process of discontinuing the firesetting behavior. The main choices are fire safety education, mental health intervention with fire safety education, or referral to police.

As caregivers for a child, it is the responsibility of the parents/guardians and the teachers to insure the child stops playing with fire. The consequences of ignoring this problem could be deadly. The Youthful Firesetter Program was designed to refocus the child's behavior towards constructive activities and eliminating the inappropriate ones. The program has a very high success ratio.