Youth Firesetter Program

Youth Firesetter Intervention Program
youth firesetter1

Children play with fire for a variety of reasons. Determining the motivation for the firesetting, we can best determine how to address it. There are five basic classifications - curiosity / experimentation (most common), reactionary, delinquent, strategic, and pathological firesetting.

Curiosity/Experimentation   The majority of children who play with fire (about 70%) are in this group. They are typically younger in age, and are curious about fire. The opportunity is there because the child has access to fire tools and is not supervised at the time of the incident. They usually don't think about or understand the danger of their actions. Example: 5 year old Joey finds his parent's lighter on the table. He is bored, so he decides to light some papers on fire. He has a normal home life with no stresses. He seems sorry for what he did.

Reactionary   If a child is upset about something and not good at expressing themselves, they may use fire as a way to let grownups know they need help. Their firesetting is in reaction to a problem, a new baby in the family, divorce, family problems, moving, a death, problems at school or with friends. Example: Mom and step-dad are fighting loudly. 11yr old Nikki is scared and wants them to stop. She doesn't know how to communicate how she feels, so she takes a lighter into her bedroom and sets her bedding on fire. When the parents notice this new emergency, they stop fighting. What's likely to happen the next time the parents fight if nothing changes?

Delinquent Behavior  Sometimes kids will light a fire as a prank or dare. Sometimes it's to cover up another crime. Most of the kids in this group, typically adolescent, don't realize they are breaking the law and could go to jail. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they may not understand the consequence of fire or potential liability to them and their family. Example: Other kids dare 14-year-old Kris to light toilet paper in the school bathroom. Kris wants his friends to like him. Even though he knows it is wrong, he does it anyway.

Strategic Firesetting  In some cases, children will escalate to deliberate acts of firesetting, with no regard for life or property including their own life. They know what they are doing is wrong, and they understand the consequences. They may use fire for retaliation, as part of a group initiation, or to cover up a major crime.

Pathological Firesetting This type of firesetting is rare, and may be connected to a mental disorder or problem. Pathological fire setting may occur for obscure reasons, not easily understood by those other than mental health professionals.

For information or questions please contact:

Captain Darrell Tirpak