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/ Fire Marshal’s Office began accepting children into our Youth Firesetter 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, firesetting/fire play, and how to make better decisions in certain situations.
Most experts agree that the best way to understand firesetting 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 firesetters and problem firesetters. Curious firesetters 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 firesetters also can be very young, but generally are five to seventeen years of age. In contrast to the curious firesetter, 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 firesetting behavior; or, a more serious disturbance could be the cause.
Education is the foremost component of primary prevention. The frequency of youth firesetting 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 firesetting 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 firesetter problems that we may face in our community.
Any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.