Serial Arsonist Paul Keller is believed to have begun setting fires at age 8 or 9. Last year a 15-year-old, who was reportedly mad at his family situation, torched the flower shop of people he didn’t know. What makes kids start fires? How do parents and adults recognize young arsonists and prevent future fires? The Everett Fire Department just announced plans to focus on young fire starters…
Involved parents are essential in educating children on the dangers of fire. The Everett Fire Department, in conjunction with the U.S. Fire Administration, is recognizing May 6-12 as National Arson Awareness Week. The focus for the week: “Prevent Youth Firesetting.”
“Parents should teach young children that fire is not a tool or a toy,” said Eric Hicks, fire inspector with the Everett Fire Department. “It’s essential to keep matches and lighters out of reach. Store them in hard-to-reach cabinets or locked cabinets. Most importantly, parents or caregivers should always supervise young children around fire.”
In 2010, FBI statistics show that 40 percent of arson arrests were juveniles. Of that 40 percent, nearly half were incidents involving children 16 years old or younger.
Fires that are set in homes are more likely to be caused by younger children, whereas older children tend to set fires outdoors. And, men have a higher percentage rate of setting fires than women. Half of fires set by children had a cigarette or barbecue lighter as the ignition source.
“Youth firesetting isn’t just vandalism, it’s an act of violence,” Hicks said. “Firesetting can easily result in death and significant loss of property. It’s a crime, and, under certain circumstances, juveniles can be prosecuted as adults. As a parent, please take youth firesetting very seriously.”
Between 2005 – 2009, fires started by children playing accounted for an average of 56,300 fires with losses of 110 civilian deaths, 880 civilian injuries and $286 million in property damage per year.
The Everett Fire Department works effectively to address the issue of youth-set fires by offering assessment and education. The program offers help and support to children and families involved in a firesetting incident.
To learn more, visitwww.everettfire.org or call Eric Hicks at 425-257-8123.