Recent fires in Gloversville and Johnstown were the result of juvenile fire setting. Far too often, our Glove Citues fire departments battle fires that are started by children. These fires need to be prevented.
One of the leading causes of residential fire deaths and injuries for children younger than the age of 10 is playing with a heat source, such as matches and lighters. Each year, nationwide, hundreds of fires are set by children who are responsible for hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and millions of dollars in property damage. While curiosity with fire may seem like natural exploration, fires set by children are dangerous and deadly. Fire setting may be a symptom of a problem that is manifested through stress and crisis in children’s lives, a cry for help, thrill seeking, a willful intent to cause destruction or by those who suffer from mental or emotional problems. Parents, caregivers and educators must assist with avoiding tragedy by preventing children from starting fires. Ways to help do this include:
- Begin teaching fire safety at an early age.
- Keep matches and lighters locked away and out of reach.
- Children must be supervised and not left alone.
- Children must be taught that if they find matches or lighters to tell an adult, and that matches and lighters are tools, not toys.
- Parents and caregivers should not use matches, lighters and fire for fun because children will mimic the actions; when they do it unsupervised, tragic events can result.
- Check under beds or in closets for burned items – evidence that your child may be playing with fire.
- If lighters must be used, use child-resistant lighters; however, they are not child proof.
- Praise children for practicing responsible behavior and respecting fire.
- Dress children in pajamas that meet federal flammability standards.
- Install smoke alarms. Teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like and what to do if they hear it.
- Make and practice home fire escape plans and teach children to get out of the house quickly.
- Teach how to crawl low on the floor below the smoke to exit the residence
- Make certain children know how to stop, drop and roll if their clothes catch fire.
Both fire departments offer juvenile intervention education. If assistance is needed for a child who is misusing fire, or if there are questions or concerns, call the Gloversville Fire Department at 725-3124 or Johnstown Fire Department at 736-4079.
BETH WHITMAN-PUTNAM, Gloversville fire chief, and
BRUCE HEBERER, Johnstown fire chief