Youth Firesetting: What You Can Do. – Pamphlet from the U.S. Fire Administration
Fires Started by Children and Youths
From 2008 through 2012, there were 747 juvenile-set fires reported in Massachusetts. These fires caused four civilian deaths, 38 civilian injuries and 20 firefighter injuries and an estimated dollar loss of $8.2 million. Over half, 53%, of these fires were reported to the Mass. Fire Incident Reporting System (MFIRS) as started by “children playing with matches and lighters” (the outdated code in the system to track juvenile set fires.)
Juvenile firesetting intervention programs tell us that this number is far below the real number of fires set by juveniles. Children and youth tell us that they set many other fires before the one that brought them to the attention of authorities.
Professional Evaluation and Appropriate Intervention
Whether a child is merely curious about fire, making a cry for help, attempting to control the adult world, or engaging in delinquent behavior, it is extremely dangerous for children to use fire. Children and youth who use fire can be helped, but they must receive the right kind of help. It is not a phase that they will grow out of, it is not a matter of boys being boys or yelling at them or burning their fingers or other such methods. The reason a child uses fire must be identified by a trained professional and addressed. Each child must be evaluated and given the correct intervention program. Intervention programs vary, typically containing one or more of the following components: education, psychological treatment or community service.
Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect in Massachusetts
Firefighters and police officers are mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect by statute (Massachusetts General Law CH 119-section 51A). Often times, in the performance of their duties they are called on to suppress or investigate fires that involve children who have been victimized by these fires. On some occasions, these children have caused the fires. If as a mandated reporter, you have questions about what constitutes abuse or neglect of children or your responsibilities as a mandated reporter please go to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) website.
To report possible child abuse or neglect in Massachusetts, you must first file an oral report by calling the Child-at-Risk Hotline at 1-800-792-5200 to notify the appropriate area office of the Department of Social Services(DSS). Even if you complete the 51A Report Form, you must also first phone DCF directly or the Child-at-Risk Hotline. For information on how to report child abuse and neglect outside of Massachusetts, please call the National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Training:
This 6-day course provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to identify children and adolescents involved in fire-setting. The course addresses how to establish programs to meet the needs of these youths and their families. The skills essential to meet the Youth Fire-setting Intervention Professional Standard which is part of NFPA 1035, Standard of Professional Qualifications for Public Fire and Life Safety Educator are discussed and practiced throughout the course. The course framework guides practitioners through the process of developing a comprehensive strategy to combat the misuse of fire and incendiary devices by juveniles. The course focuses on how identification, intake, screening, disposition and follow-up are used to mitigate youth fire-setting behavior. It also empowers students with knowledge on how to develop, implement and evaluate a youth fire-setting prevention and intervention program. Students will interview children and/or adolescents from a local residential treatment program for youth fire-setting. There is a pre-course assignment due upon arrival to the first day of the course (assignment to be given upon acceptance into the course).
MA State Police Bomb Threat Checklist
School fire reporting law
Quick Reference Guide for Fire and Explosive Laws file size 1MB
Mass. Juvenile Court Clinics Summary
Definitions of Clinical Diagnosis
Psychoactive Booklet - Spanish
Medication Manual for Consumers and Families
Medication Manual for Consumers and Families - Spanish
State & National Agencies
Fire & Explosion Investigation Section (MA State Police assigned to DFS)
Department of Children and Family Services (formerly the Department of Social Services)
MA Juvenile Court Department
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency (U.S. Dept. of Justice)
National Criminal Justice Reference Service
National Center for State Courts
Articles and Statistics
Fire Risk to Children in 2010, USFA Topical Fire Research Series, Vol. 14, Issue 8, August, 2013
School Building Fires (2009-2011), USFA Topical Fire Research Series, Vol. 4, Issue 4, April, 2014
Article on Juvenile Firesetting Trends
Bureau of Justice Statistics
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Article on Juvenile Arson - (FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin April 2005)
Article on international presenters at a National Association of State Fire Marshals conference on juvenile firesetting
Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal, Hot Issues website .
"Children Playing With Fire" research article on the NFPA website as follows: Go to: www.nfpa.org then Quick Links >> Fact Sheets & Safety Tips >> Children and fire >> Reports and statistics
CBS News footage of Juveniles Detonating Bombs
ATF U.S. Bomb Center - Contact Information to acquire current statistics
Links to the 2008 Uniform Crime Report, published by the FBI
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