Youth Fire Setter Intervention Program
The mission of the Princeton Youth Fire Setter Intervention Program (YFIP) is to provide education and counseling referrals to youth and their families who have experienced the devastating effects of juvenile fire play.
Children have a natural curiosity about fire, and that curiosity will often lead to experimentation with fire. Children set about 35% of the incendiary fires investigated by the Collin County Fire Investigation Unit. The property loss from these fires is significant; however, the potential for injury and loss of life is a serious and frightening threat.
The National Fire Protection Association estimates that more than 45% of all children between the ages of five and seven have played with matches
and lighters. Most of the fires started by children in this age group are set out of curiosity. Intervention at the curiosity stage of fire setting can teach the proper and safe use of fire and help prevent destructive tendencies that could develop into acts of delinquency and violence.
The Princeton Youth Firesetter Intervention Program is an educational program that can be adapted to the individual needs of each child. The program is designed to work in cooperation with the Juvenile Court system and the various counseling and mental health agencies in Collin County.
Youth Fire Setter Information
Children participating in the Princeton Youth Fire Setter Intervention Program (YFIP) from 5 to 16 years of age. Their fire play behavior is just as varied as their ages.
Toddlers often try to imitate adults. This coupled with the availability of matches and lighters can lead even a toddler to start a potentially dangerous fire. Unfortunately, even curious toddlers often sense that what they are doing is wrong and try to hide their fire play behavior. At this stage, both parents and child can benefit from intervention. Curiosity about fire is natural, but it needs to be channeled in a positive and constructive direction.
The problem fire setter can range from preschool age children to teenagers. He or she may show an obsessive interest in fire and usually has set more than one fire. Poor self-image, problems at school, and / or an unstable home situation are some of the difficulties that a problem fire setter may encounter. The fire setting incidents are sometimes cries for help. Intervention can be successful at this stage, but there may also be a need for professional counseling.
The delinquent fire setter usually has a history of academic and social problems. A poor self-image and peer pressure can be factors at this stage. Problems with these children often go beyond fire setting to other acts of vandalism. There is a high rate of recidivism among delinquent fire setters.
A severely disturbed fire setter can be of any age and has a variety of problems. Because of the complicated behavior patterns of this type of juvenile fire setter, the treatment process is best handled through the juvenile court system or mental health counselors.
Fortunately, most juvenile fire setters can be treated successfully with education and counseling. The goal of the Princeton Youth Fire Setter Intervention Program (YFIP) is to teach fire safe behavior to all children and their parents.
If you reside in the City of Princeton and would like to refer your child to participate in this program, please email Assistant Fire Marshal Greg Fenn.
This program was initiated on a state level to assist in the establishment of community-based juvenile fire awareness and intervention programs, now more accurately called youth fire prevention and intervention programs, in which local fire departments take the lead. An advisory team comprised of fire prevention professionals in existing juvenile intervention programs helped develop a "model" intervention program that can be easily adapted to meet the individual needs of fire departments throughout the state. The model was based on the U.S. Fire Administration/Federal Emergency Management Agency (USFA/FEMA) program, programs from other states, and existing programs within Texas. Team members also helped develop a workshop to train fire department personnel in the use of the model program and related topics.
The Princeton Fire Department and Fire Marshal's Office began accepting children into our Youth Fire Setter Prevention and Intervention (YFPI) program October 3, 2016. This youth-based program, created by the National Fire Academy, as part of the U.S. Fire Administration, is used as a tool to help youth and their families understand the dangers of fire, fire setting/fire play, and how to make better decisions in certain situations.
Most experts agree that the best way to understand fire setting behavior is to look at where and why children set fires. They believe that there are two basic types of children who start fires: curiosity fire setters and problem fire setters. Curious fire setters usually are two to seven years of age whose fascination with fire leads them to "play" with fire to find out how it feels, how it burns, and what it will do. These children do not understand fire's destructive potential. Although curiosity is a normal part of a child's growth and development, parents and other adults who discover that a child is playing with fire should take it very seriously. Problem fire setters also can be very young, but generally are five to seventeen years of age. In contrast to the curious fire setter, these youth light fires because of emotional or mental challenges ranging from mild to severe. A crisis in the child's life, such as moving to a new area, a divorce, or death could trigger fire setting behavior; or, a more serious disturbance could be the cause.
Education is the foremost component of primary prevention. The frequency of youth fire setting behaviors can be reduced through combined use of school and community-based education. The Princeton Fire Department / Fire Marshal's office (with support from other educators) can heighten awareness within the community as to the scope of the fire setting problem. In combined efforts we can also provide critical preventive education to children, adolescents, parents, and caregivers.
The majority of children will stop playing with matches and fire with the kind of fire safety education provided within the YFPI program. This help includes instruction in fire safety and safe opportunities to learn about matches and fire. However, there are some children who need more help than the fire department can provide. Should that be the case, a referral to individuals trained to help children who are upset or who need special information in order to stop playing with matches and fire will be made.
Our goal is to provide critical preventive education to children, adolescents, parents, and caregivers.
We look forward in working together in conjunction with all agencies, in order to prevent and reduce the number of fire setter problems that we may face in our community.