The Meridian Fire Department recently noted the growing number of juvenile fire-setters in the Treasure Valley.

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In their informational brochure, Juvenile Fire-Setters, the MFD highlights the critical need to understand why children are compelled to play with fire. Data points to two types of children most likely to start fires: curiosity fire-setters and problem fire-setters.

CURIOUSITY FIRE-SETTERS || Children aged 2 to 7 years are drawn to the sensory aspect of fire-setting. As the label indicates, these littles are eager to understand what fire feels like, sounds like, looks like, how it burns, and what it can do. The MFD agrees curiosity is a healthy tendency and characteristic for children to have. It’s when curiosity couples with destructive and life-threatening behaviors that it becomes a risk to the common welfare.

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PROBLEM FIRE-SETTERS || Children and adolescents in this category range between 5 and 17 years but can also be as young as 2 years-old. Driven by emotion and mental disturbance, trauma typically provokes these fire-setters. The MFD finds children impacted by the loss of a loved one, divorce, and radical or sudden life-changes are more likely to intentionally experiment with fire than their unaffected peers are.

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HOW TO HANDLE FIRE-SETTERS || The MFD implores parents and caregivers to exercise extreme precaution with a child’s access and proximity to open flames as well as ignition sources such as lighters and matches. Parents and caregivers who observe their children expressing a greater than normal interest in fire should address it immediately.

Talk to your children about the dangers of fire, and confirm their comprehension by having them explain it back to you in their own words. Also critical is the installation and routine maintenance of home smoke detectors. If you need assistance, contact your local fire department.

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MOST CHILDREN are intrigued by fire at some point in their lives. It’s the manner in which parents and caregivers respond to the intrigue that can make the greatest difference in future outcomes. As a fireman’s daughter, my father was as concerned with helping me understand the risks associated with fire as he was the necessity for the responsible use of it in our everyday life.

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As with most anything, providing examples was key to helping my young mind understand my father’s point. I vividly remember him turning the knob for the pilot on the stove top to illustrate the route a fire might pursue in our kitchen and what that could look like or result it. My six-year-old self was horrified at the idea that the fire could reach mine and my parents’ bedrooms. I knew fire hurt and burned, and I never wanted myself or anyone in our family to be hurt and burned. Was that a redundant sentence for a 30-something? Sure. But it was entirely appropriate for a small child.


RESOURCES || If you’re looking for help communicating the dangers and risks associated with children and fire-setting, explore the juvenile resources below from the National Fire Prevention Association.

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Music & Video || https://sparkyschoolhouse.org/#music-section

Read & Play || https://sparkyschoolhouse.org/#read-section

Learn Not to Burn || https://sparkyschoolhouse.org/#learn-section

Lessons || https://sparkyschoolhouse.org/#lessons-section

Digital Backpack || https://sparkyschoolhouse.org/digital-backpack/

Sparky.org || http://www.sparky.org/

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