Miss. Workshop Addresses Problem of Juvenile Firesetting; Reportedly $190 Million in U.S. Property Destroyed Annually

March 30, 2004

Mississippi Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Millard Mackey and members of his staff recently participated in a two-day workshop designed to address the problem of juvenile fire setting, one of the reportedly fastest-growing segments of intentionally-set fires.

“The number of fires set by children is growing,” Mackey said. “It is a problem that needs the attention of parents, teachers, counselors and community leaders, in cooperation with fire and law enforcement officers.”

In a typical year in the U.S., more than 300 people are killed and $190 million in property is destroyed in fires set by children. Children themselves are usually the victims of these fires accounting for 85 of every 100 lives lost.

Experts reportedly believe that there are two types of children that set fires:

*P Curiosity seekers – usually 2 to 7 year olds whose fascination with fire leads them to “play” with it to find out how it fees, how it burns, and what it does – without understanding its destructive potential.

*P Problem fire setters – usually 5 to 17 year olds who light fires as a result of emotional or mental disturbances ranging from mild to severe.

In Mississippi, unintentional injuries are the leading case of death for children ages 3-5. Fire is considered the second largest cause of such deaths, responsible for more than 20 percent of all fatal unintentional injuries for children in that age group.

Fireproof Children Company, an international fire safety research, educational and prevention center based in Pittsford, N.Y., received a major grant from the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), to review the current understanding of the home factors contributing to juvenile firesetting, identify currently available social service resources needed to address this problem, and make recommendations to NASFM and to the Department of Justice.

The NASFM-sponsored Juvenile Firesetter Intervention & Prevention (JFIP) Project, Coalition Building Workshops are designed to assist communities in establishing and strengthening intervention and prevention programs based on information developed from the research phase of the NADFM JFIP Project. The
workshop is based on a team concept, which mobilizes the resources of several community disciplines necessary for effective intervention and prevention.

These disciplines include: fire investigation/fire prevention, juvenile justice, mental health, education and social services – all of which are reportedly critical in effective intervention practices.

The JFIP Coalition Building Workshop is based on inclusion of the State Fire Marshal’s Office as a primary resource of on-going support to local coalitions within the state. Local coalitions who are invited to participate in the workshop will receive ongoing support from the State Fire Marshal’s Office as well as from NASFM and
Fireproof Children Company.

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