Children and Safety

Each year about 300 people are killed and $280 million in property is destroyed in fires attributed to children playing with fire. Deaths due to children playing with fire are particularly preventable.

The Jacksonville Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Program offers assessment, counseling referral and intervention for parents of children who accidentally or purposely start fires.

Any child under age 18 who accidentally or purposely starts a fire should be referred to the Jacksonville Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Program. Parents, teachers, mental health providers and others can refer a juvenile to the program by calling 904-255-3286.

Jacksonville Fire/Rescue Department staff will conduct an initial assessment with the parent(s) and child to determine what intervention is needed. Either education/consequences intervention and/or professional counseling will be recommended. In more serious cases, the court may mandate a specific program.

In professional counseling referrals, parents may be asked to seek professional counseling for their child if the problem appears to be a crisis situation.

In education/consequences intervention, parents and their children attend a class that includes discussing the fire that was set, explaining why and identifying the potential for injury and even death. The class includes a discussion about potential consequences of setting fires. A discussion about home safety and evacuation plans also is part of the class.

Children start fires for many reasons:

  • Curiosity or experimentation
  • Imitating behavior
  • Peer pressure
  • Reacting to a crisis
  • Anger or revenge
  • During illegal activity

Following these guidelines can reduce the chances of injury or death in a fire started by a child.

  • Keep matches, lighters and other ignitables in a secure place out of the reach of children.
  • Teach your children to tell you when they find matches and lighters.
  • Talk openly with small children about fire dangers and explain that matches and lighters are tools only for adults to use carefully.
  • Install and maintain smoke alarms in your house.

To learn more about talking with young children about fire safety, visit the U.S. Fire Administration for Kids website. In addition to safety information, the site has crossword puzzles, coloring pages and games.