Juvenile Firesetter Program

Fires reported by U.S. Fire Departments show that children playing with fires started 41,900 fires, caused an estimated 150 civilian deaths, 1,900 civilian injuries, and $272 million in direct property damage. The crime of arson has the highest rate of juvenile involvement, they account for at least half of those arrested for arson

The Dixon City Juvenile Firesetter Program has been established to help reduce the number of fires started by juveniles within our community. The program is designed to assist parents and their child in understanding the dangers of playing with fire, how to prevent repeat behavior and other consequences of their firesetting behavior. Request for services can be made by the parents or legal guardian of the child, referral by School Officials, Fire Investigator or by Juvenile Justice.

Who are these firesetters?

A firesetter is any child under the age of 18 who sets a fire, either on intentionally or unintentionally.

Why do they set fires?

Children set fires for many reasons:

  • Curiosity and Experimentation are the most common reason children set fires.
  • Boredom
  • Anger
  • Stress in family or school
  • Need for attention
  • Emotional instability

How does our program work?

Interviews will be conducted to determine whether the firesetting behavior was accidental, curiosity or symptomatic of deeper problems. Educational intervention will be utilized for the accidental and curiosity firesetter. When firesetting behavior is determined to be indicative of more serious problems, educational intervention and referral to specialized Social Services agencies is be recommended.

The Dixon City Fire Department Juvenile Firesetter Program is a multi-level approach to the education and/or treatment of identified juvenile involved in firesetting behavior. The program is adaptable for preschool ages through teens. Participation is voluntary except for those referred by the Juvenile authorities. The program consists of five parts, each phase has a unique role in the process, yet all are interconnected. The five parts are; dix-kid_1bidentification, education, assessment, referral and follow-up. Parents or legal Guardians are required to participate in the program.

Identification

Identification is what brings the child to our attention, that may be accomplished in a number of ways. A child is found to be involved in firesetting behavior by a a parent, a child who has experienced an inappropriate incident with fire and the fire department is involved. If a child has been linked to a fire incident through investigation they may also be referred to the program by the Juvenile Court. Referrals can also come for school officials.

Education

dix-kid2bRegardless of the reason for a child setting a fire, education is the key to changing firesetting behaviors. Education involves providing the family with the information they need to prevent future mishaps with fire. Parents must be as much a part of the process as the child, since we can not expect the child to use fire in an appropriate manner, when his/her primary role models (parents) may be demonstrating the incorrect method several times a day. The parents may need as much, or more education than the child.

Many firesetters know how to stop, drop and roll, crawl low under smoke, feel the door, test their smoke detector, make an escape plan, and many other survival skills. But survival skills emphasize what to do after a fire has occurred. Firesetting intervention should emphasize how to avoid the inappropriate use of fire to prevent an incident from every occurring.

Assessment

Initial contact can simply be a phone call from the parent requesting assistance with a juvenile or a Fire Investigator will attempt to contact the parent when information is obtained regarding a suspected firesetter. At this time the parent is interviewed to gain background information on the child and family history.

The parents are asked to bring the child into the Fire Prevention Office. The program requires that the parents commit to two appointments within a two-three week period.

During the first visit the interviewer will need to determine if education is the proper intervention method to solving the problem or is additional help to the family needed. If there are problems that fire safety alone can not solve, then appropriate help must be found for the family through a referral agency.

Referral

Identifying the issues that led the child to firesetting and then determining the proper course of action for resolving the child's fire setting behaviors. These resources may be in the form of mental health intervention, parenting classes, juvenile justice, or other appropriate services.

dix-kide3bFollow-up

No program can be successful without evaluation. Follow-up means evaluating the success rates as well as looking at client satisfaction and additional client needs.

Success can be measured by the rate of recurrence (recidivism) of fire setting behavior. The non recurrence of firesetting behavior, which usually indicates a good change in behavior, can determine the success of the intervention.

Evaluating the quality of the intervention is also important. What worked well and what did not work are two very important questions. Only the client can answer these questions. Information gathered during the follow-up phase is vital for directing fadditional intervention.

How do I refer a child to the program?

Parents/Caregivers/School Officials: Contact the Dixon City Fire Department as soon after the fire incident as possible. The telephone number is (815) 288-3323 and ask to speak to a Juvenile Counselor.

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Some of the content on this page is courtesy of Bob Gibler.