Curious children with fire setting behavior will want to know how fire feels, how it burns and what fire does to objects. They do not know how destructive fire can become. Sure, curiosity is a normal part of childrens’ development, but if you discover a child playing with fire, please take it seriously. Most curious type firesetters are between the ages of 2 and 5 years old.
For older children between the ages of 5 to 17 years old, the fascination with fire could be from emotional or mental disturbances. These disturbances could range from mild to severe. A crisis in a child’s life such as divorce or death can trigger a change in fire setting behavior. Chronic behavior such as poor relationships with other children, cruelty to animals and extreme mood changes can signal a more serious disturbance.
What can parents do?
Teach your children about fire. Tell children that fire is a tool used to heat homes and cook food. It is not a toy, even adults must follow safety rules for fire. It is dangerous and can kill. All fires, even small ones, can spread quickly.
- Keep all matches and lighters out of reach of children, even two year olds can operate a lighter.
- Never allow anyone to use lighters or matches in an unsafe manner in your home.
- Never leave stoves or lighted candles unattended.
- Teach children to bring to your attention any matches or lighters they find.
Set a good example by maintaining smoke alarms and fire extinguishers in the home. Plan a fire escape for your family and hold practice drills. Point out to children the safety rules that you and others have to follow throughout the day. Inspect your home for fire hazards.
Boise Fire Department has a Juvenile FireSetters Program for children and youth to learn about the dangers of fire experimentation. If you are a parent, counselor or teacher concerned about a child, please contact Captain Gordon Goldsmith at (208) 384-3977. Individual sessions are available for children and parents.
Does your family have a fire escape plan if your home is on fire? Many people make poor decisions when fire breaks out. They may be affected by smoke, disoriented by being awakened abruptly, and frightened. If you and your family have planned your escape and practiced the plan, you’ll be better prepared to make wise choices that lead to a safe and successful escape.
Draw a Floor Plan of Your Home
Be thorough, include windows, doors, outdoor features and possible obstacles in your drawing. Know at least two ways out of each room.
Learn Your Escape Routes and Keep Them Clear
Walk through the primary and alternative escape routes, making sure all exits are accessible to all members of your household. Be sure that windows in your home are not painted shut or blocked, and do not have a screwed-on screen or storm window that can’t be opened from the inside. Have your children practice opening the windows.
What To Do When You’ve Escaped
- Go to a Meeting Place
Choose a spot away from the building where all members of the household will meet after they’ve escaped from a fire. Mark the meeting place on your floor plan.
- Get Out and Stay Out
During a real fire, do not go back into your home for any reason until the fire department says that it is safe. Discourage anyone from going back into the burning building to attempt to rescue people or pets or retrieve possessions.
- Teach Your Children What To Do in a Fire
Have each child in your household know how to call the 911 emergency phone number. Escape first and then call the 911 emergency phone number from a neighbor’s house or cell phone.
Too often after a fire, bodies of children are found in closets or under beds where they tried to hide. Fire and smoke are frightening, and the impulse to hide from them is natural. You must teach your children that they must escape from a fire and never hide.
It is best if each child knows how to escape in case of fire as soon as he or she is able
to do so.
TIPS TO REMEMBER:
- Practice your escape plan at least twice a year.
- Try an unannounced drill to make the experience as realistic as possible.
- Make sure everyone in your home knows the sound of your smoke alarm.
- In a real fire, you must be prepared to move quickly, carefully and calmly. Don’t let your exit drill become a race. Make sure everyone knows exactly what to do. Don’t run.
- Vary your drill by pretending some escape routes are blocked.
- Since the majority of fatal home fires start when people are asleep, practice your escape plan by having each member of your household wait in his or her sleeping area for the monitor to sound the alarm.
- Start by coaching your children, but remember that your goal is to teach them to escape without your help.