Findings indicate that of all victims of fires set by a child; about thirty four percent of the victims are children themselves. The leading cause of death in residential fires in the United States has been found to be playing with fire. Children are often engaged in games that involve playing with fire. These games are normally played in the bedroom where many things can easily catch fire. Older children on the other hand play with fire outside the home. The majority of these children are often under the false impression that they have the capacity to control the fires that they have set.
A large percentage of children who set fire have no possession of fire safety education and are also not supervised by their parents. Statistics indicate that more than fifty percent of individuals arrested for arson in the United States are juveniles. About eighty thousand structure fires are caused by children who play with fire. From this, seven hundred and sixty deaths and more than three thousand five hundred injuries result. The annual estimates of damages from juvenile fire setting stand at 1. 2 billion dollars. It takes less than two minutes for an entire room to be set on fire by a flame from a single match.
In only under five minutes, the entire house can be engulfed in flames. Over three hundred deaths and two thousand injuries result from juvenile arson and fires set by youth annually. Again, property damage resulting from these fires amount to over three hundred million dollars. Forty percent of deaths related to residential fire are caused by children playing with fire. Characteristic of fire setters Juvenile fire setters can be categorized into three groups according to age. The first category is made up of children aged less than seven years.
The majority of fires caused by this category of children are mainly as a result of accident or curiosity. Some studies indicate that the children’s interest in fire begins before the age of three (Kolko & Kadzin, 1999). Naturally, children are curious about fire even though there are various factors that determine whether a child actually sets fire or not. Such factors include the availability of fire supply and their exposure to fire. The majority of children under this category who set fire are not aware of the potential consequences.
The second category is comprised of children between the age eight to twelve. Fire set by children within this category may also emanate from curiosity. However, it may also be the result of an underlying psychosocial conflict (Slavkin, 2000). Children under this category may be completely aware of the consequences of their actions and set fire as a strategy for attracting attention. They are likely to continue setting fire until their concerns become addressed or until their needs are met. The third category consists of adolescents aged between thirteen years and eighteen years.
A major feature of these young people under this category is that they seem to possess a long history of playing with fire and fire starting behavior that had not been detected. Their fire setting actions may either be motivated by psychosocial conflict and turmoil or an intended criminal behavior. The history of such young people is characterized by behavior problems and school failure. They are highly vulnerable to peer influence. Another classification of juvenile fire setters lives out those that start fire out of curiosity. As such, it classifies intentional fire setters.
The first group within this category is made up of those children who set fire as a way of seeking attention. The second category is made up of children who are motivated through delinquent activity. The final category is composed of juveniles who have severe emotional disturbances. Regardless of the mode of classification, what is apparent is that the older the child, the more hey experiment with more sophisticated materials. As children advance in age, their fire setting tend to be externally directed toward locations such as barns, garbage dumpsters, grasslands, schools and automobiles (Little, 1998).
There exist various varieties of psychosocial, behavioral, conduct and aggression problems exuded by juvenile fire setters. Among these are a tendency of playing with matches or lighters, cruelty to animals, item burning and extreme enthusiasm and curiosity about fire (Foerger, 1999). The potential for setting fire becomes high when these factors are combined with the circumstance, the ease at which matches and lighters can be obtained and a general misunderstanding about the consequences of fire. Juvenile fire setters may possess a number of characteristics.
These children tend to be curious about fire and do not understand the dangers associated with fire. In some cases, these children may be experiencing some changes in the family life such as death, divorce or separation. They may also have a history of behavioral problems and poor peer relationship. Parental involvement Families are often reluctant in responding to what they normally take to be a one time occurrence. Families in most cases tend to ignore the seriousness of the behavior. Every child who has engaged in fire play or fire setting tendencies requires intervention.
Children need to be educated on the dangers of playing with fire by their parents so that they may stop the behavior. The most important thing that parents need to do is to take notice of their children. Parents also need to talk to their children about the dangers of fire. They also must set a good example as the majority of children learn about the use of fire from their parents. If the parents are reckless with fire, the child is likely to handle fire carelessly. Access to matches and lighters should also be restricted. The only way to ensure that children do not access them is by keeping them safely.
Problems are likely to occur when children begin to handle fire in ways that are dangerous. Parents should therefore seek appropriate help before any serious problem occur. Professional guidance is more appropriate as threats and punishments are in most cases ineffective. Without any form of intervention, fire setting cannot stop. The past decade has witnessed the establishment of various programs in numerous jurisdictions across the United States to address concerns about juvenile fire setting. These programs primarily fall under the fire service.
Their aim is to prevent the recurrence of fire setting by identifying, evaluating and treating the juvenile fire setter. Early programs were mainly designed by local mental health professionals and personnel in the fire service. Based on models developed by the United States Fire Administration, various programs have been established. Apart from the fire department, juvenile fire setter programs obtain referrals from the police departments, mental health agencies, social service agencies, schools and parents. A working relationship exists between the programs and a number of these major community agencies.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the United States Fire Administration, in seeing the need for increased knowledge on how the problem of juvenile fire setting can be minimized, funded an initiative known as the National Juvenile Fire setter/Arson Control and Prevention (NJF/ACP) Program which ran from 1987 through 1993. Possible solutions The most appropriate solutions to children with fire setting behavior are those focused on brief therapy (Little, 1998). The solution focused on brief therapy was developed as a family counseling theory.
The therapy is made up of sessions with the first session being the most important. It employs “solution talk” to change cognitions from negative focus on weakness and problems to the positive attitudes of expressing optimism and strength. This may in particular satisfy the powerful need of juvenile fire setters for security and love. The problem can also be solved through fire safety education, collaboration with the community agencies and empathy training. These methods can especially be used by school counselors to bring about positive changes for juveniles with fire setting behaviors and the general society.
Current trends It has been noted that during the winter months, there is always an increased rate of child fire injuries and deaths. The distribution of injuries and deaths are even throughout the week. Deaths and injuries also seem to take place between 8 P. M and 8 A. M. (Kolko, 2002). The majority of child fares are residential with more than ninety percent of such fires resulting in injuries and death. Fires often originate from the bedroom. Arson still continues to be a major United States problem.
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