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A new law passed in early May now requires schools to report fires to fire authorities. Chapter 80 of the Acts of 2006 created a new section 2A of Mass. General Law C. 148. It takes effect 90 days from signing so will be in effect at the start of the new school year. Fire and law enforcement authorities have long sought this law so they can better protect their communities. Fire officials know that all fires start small, so every fire has the potential to rob the community of a valuable asset - the school itself.
Juvenile firesetters will continue to set fires until they receive appropriate intervention. The sooner a child's cry for help is heard, the sooner the child will receive help. No one does a child with a firesetting problem any good if they do not react appropriately and swiftly. If schools have a series of fires but only call fire and law enforcement officials when "they have a big one", then none of that pattern of fire setting can be used to make the case for getting a student the help they need, and in the mean time, the entire school community is placed at risk.
While juvenile firesetting is not the only cause of school fires, it is the most common. MFIRS indicates 21% of school fires are intentionally-set, 21% are indoor rubbish fires for which cause is not collected but should be considered intentionally-set, and juvenile firesetting accounts for 2%. Since most school fires occur when school is in session, the data indicates 45% of school fires are most likely started by the students themselves.
Chapter 80 of the Acts of 2006
An Act Relative to the Reporting of fires in School
SECTION 1. Section 37L of chapter 71 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2004 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word "nineteen", in line 5, the following words:- , and the reporting requirements relating to fires in section 2A of chapter 148.
SECTION 2. Chapter 148 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 2 the following section:-Section 2A. The principal of any public or private school that provides instruction to pupils in any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive, shall immediately report any incident involving the unauthorized ignition of any fire within the school building or on school grounds to the local fire department. The principal shall submit a written report of the incident to the head of the fire department within 24 hours on a form furnished by the Department of Fire Services. The report shall be filed without regard to the extent of the fire or whether there was a response by the fire department. The head of the fire department shall report such incident to the marshal in accordance with section2.