According to NFPA:
- Fires started by children playing accounted for an average of 56,300 fires with associated losses of 110 civilian deaths, 880 civilian injuries, and $286 million in direct property damage per year between 2005-2009
- Younger children are more likely to set fires in homes, while older children and teenagers are more likely to set fires outside
- Males are more likely to engage in fireplay than females, as 83 percent of home structure fires and 93 percent of outside or unclassified fires were set by boys when age was coded as a factor.
- Lighters were the heat source in half of child-playing fires in homes.
- A child's bedroom continues to account for 40 percent of child-playing home fires.
Data indicates where age was cited as a factor in a fire's ignition by lighters or matches, that 37 percent of these fires were started by juvenilles aged 10-17.
Juvenile fire setting is often due to the child’s curiosity of how fire works.
The typical profile of the curious fire setter is often under 10 years of age and usually male (10:1), they are unaware of the consequence involved with setting fires and the extent of the potential devastation. However, we also encounter juveniles with more severe fire setting behavior. These juveniles are normally males between the ages of 5-17 with poor social skills and lack productive peer relationships. During interviews with these juveniles, the fire is often in response to some underlying problem, including issue, or some disruptive occurrence.
The fire department intervenes with these juveniles through several different referral methods. Normally the juvenile interventionist receives notification from; fire companies, parents, police department, and/or the juvenile probation department. After a referral is received, the parents are contacted and an appointment is made to meet with the parents and the juvenile at the fire station. The Pekin Fire Department utilize the Illinois Juvenile Firesetter Program, the program consists of a(n): Family Interview, Parental Questionnaire, and Child Interview. The answers are scored and classified into one of three categories that address the need of the juvenile. These needs may be one of a combination of fire safety education and/or psychological referral for the juvenile or the entire family. If the juvenile probation department refers a juvenile and their family, the judge can and will make participation in the program mandatory. Additional fire safety education materials, including videos and books, are available at the public library, that are provided by Pekin Fire Fighters Local 524, at no charge to the families.
If we intend to get the problem under control, it is essential that all of us address the problem of juvenile fire setting behavior in an aggressive manner. Remember that a large percentage of set fires are done so by children!