August 04, 2016 - 12:51 pm

Prevent - Youth-set Fires

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Being aware of risk factors of potential youth firesetters and mitigating possible opportunities can help prevent fires being set.

Parents or guardians, teachers, and even friends are on the front line of recognizing current or potential youth firesetters and prevent opportunities for a youth to set a fire.

The following are signs and characteristics common to youth firesetters. Having one or two characteristics does not automatically mean a youth is going to set a fire or has been setting fires. However, numerous studies have found that they are characteristics frequently shared by youth firesetters.

Known risk factors for potential firesetters include:

  • Sudden learning or behavioral problems in class or at home

  • Extreme mood swings and emotional outbursts

  • Evidence of cigarette, drug, or alcohol use

  • Hyperactive and impulsive behavior, have learning disabilities, thrill-seeking, have difficulty communicating verbally, socially awkward and isolated

  • Regular/constant sad, depressed, hostile, or even aggressive or violent behavior

  • Symptoms of having been or being physically, mentally, or sexually abused

  • Close friendships with known firesetters

Signs that a youth has already been setting fires include:

  • Burn or scorch marks around the home

  • Has or has hidden a lighter or matches

  • Burns, particularly to fingers or hair

  • A high interest in or curiosity of fire

  • Spending time with friends who start fires 

  • Fires in grass or trash around the home and neighborhood

Adults have a responsibility to help keep firesetting opportunities from occurring. Some of the ways to do this are:

  • Keep all fire-setting materials out of reach and sight, preferably in a cabinet  with a child-proof lock

  • Understand and teach how fast fire can spread and become dangerous

  • Have your children help check the smoke alarms

  • Supervise all children well enough to know there isn’t a problem

  • Plan and practice a fire drills at home, including how to contact 911 (DO NOT actually contact 911 unless there actually is an emergency)

  • Do not believe the myths that a child can control a small fire, or that it is normal for children to play with fire and they will outgrow it, or that punishing a child for setting a small fire will stop him from doing it again

  • Have a Fire and Life Safety person talk to your child if you notice several of the risk factors or clues, even if you think no fire has been set

If you want more detailed information, the Rapid City Fire Department Fire and Life Safety Division (FLSD) is happy to present to your group about how to prevent firesetting in the community, signs of possible firesetting, and what to do if you believe a youth is setting fires. We can tailor our presentation to the audience from a 20-minute classroom presentation to a Parent-Teacher Organization meeting to youth ministry training.

Please contact Monica Colby for more information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 605-858-0459.

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Read 1707 times Last modified on April 03, 2017 - 12:07 pm
Monica Colby

Monica Colby is our Fire and Life Safety Specialist, working in the Fire and Life Safety Division of the Rapid City Fire Department.

[email protected]  605-394-5233 x6108

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