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Houston Fire Department

HFD Juvenile FireStoppers Program

HFD FireStopper Logo

In response to fires started by juveniles, the Houston Fire Department offers intervention programs to ensure that the fire setting behavior will cease.

 

Without the proper education, 81 percent of youths that have played with fire will do it again.

 

This program is an one-to-one fire safety class for the child and parent with: An Interview to understand the child's interest, age appropriate activities and videos and question and answer session for the family.

 

Financing for counseling services is provided for those youths who have more than a curiosity of fire, if the parents are interested in seeking further services.

 

Referrals to social services for help with after-school care, utilities, rent, etc. are available upon request.

 

Participation does not create a record of the child. All materials are kept confidential.

 

The Houston Fire Department has maintained a 98 percent success rate in stopping the fire setting behavior amongst these programs’ participants.

 

 

Our Goal

FireStoppers' goal is to provide the proper education and any other needed intervention for each child that has played with or has set fires to stop the firesetting before it leads to further injury, death, homeless families or problems with the law. Firestoppers tries to turn the event of firesetting into a positive opportunity for education and assistance. Participation in FireStoppers does NOT create a criminal record on the child.

 

 
 
 
 

HFD Juvenile FireStoppers Program Director talks about children and fire during "Kids and Summer Safety" Joint Press Conference, June 17, 2008, at Fire Station 33. Video by The Houston Fire Department.

Notice: This video is a link from outside of www.houstontx.gov/fire . Our provision of this link does not imply approval, warrant the accuracy of any information, or endorse any opinions expressed on any of these outside Web sites. Certain links outside our site may expire over time.

 

Myths vs. Facts

 

Myth - It is normal for children to play with fire.

Fact - Although curiosity about fire is common, playing with or setting fires is not typical, and dangerous.

Myth - Fire setting is a phase children will out grow.

Fact - This is not a phase. Youth need the proper education or they will continue to experiment with fire.

Myth - If your child only sets small fires, you don't need to worry.

Fact - Small fires and large fires all start the same. Any fire can quickly get out of control and endanger lives, especially when being handled by a youth.

Myth - Telling your children not to play with fire or punishing them if they have, will cure the problem.

Fact - These measures are often not enough to ensure no further fire play for children who are interested in fire. Discovering why the child has an interest, teaching them about fire in a safe manner and limiting access to matches and lighters often are more successful.

 

How can you get a child in FireStoppers?

Concerned parents, teachers, members of social services and the Houston Fire Department all refer youths to try to cease their firesetting behavior. This free program is for children 2 to 17 years of age.

 

Parents concerned that they may be judged as poor parents or seen as over-reacting, do not need to worry because the purpose of the program is to provide education for the child and family's safety.

 

Call 713-247-8826 for more information or to refer a child.

 

What can parents do?

1. Make matches and lighters "off-limits"

Tell your children to immediately tell you about any matches or lighters that they find. Reward them when they do.

Set consequences for your children if they are found with matches or lighters.

 

2. Make your home "fire safe."

Keep all matches and lighters out of reach of your children. If you smoke, keep lighters on your person and not scattered about the house.

Install smoke detectors and check their batteries at least twice a year.

Lock up all flammable items (gas, aerosols, etc.).

 

3. Teach your children about fire safety.

Talk with your children about the good (cooking, heat) and bad (accidents, burns) uses of fire. Teach them that matches and lighters are TOOLS for adults.

Practice your fire escape plan, stop-drop-and-roll and crawl-low under smoke at home.

 

4. Realize the dangers of fire play.

If your child has been found playing with fire, enroll them in a proper fire safety and prevention class. Acknowledge that punishment will not solve the problem of fire play. This is not a phase they will out grow.

 

The law on children setting fires

Children Age 10 and Above:

can be charged for breaking the law in the State of Texas.

There are 23 laws in Texas that pertain to firesetting, ranging from Class C Misdemeanors to felonies.

Arson is a 2nd Degree Felony.

Parents of Children Ages 0-17:

can be held liable for paying restitution for any damages caused by a fire started by their child.

 

Things to know about youth fire setting

 

  • Children set 20-40% of all fires.
  • Youth fire-setting is the leading cause of death for children in the home.
  • Nationally, more juveniles are involved in arson than any other crime.
  • In Houston, children under 10 set more fires than any other age group.
  • 75-81% of youth that have played with fire will do it again if not provided the proper education. In Houston over 30% of the youth that have participated in the SAFETY Program have admitted to being involved in more than one fire incident.
  • Youth fire-setters are often intelligent, yet many have ADHD or another type of learning disability.

Why do children set fires?

 

  • Curiosity: Children who play with fire in order to learn about it. Often these youths are between the ages of 3 to 7.
  • Crisis: Children who set fire as a result of a stressful event or situation (change in family structure, divorce, etc.). The youths are usually between the ages of 5 to 10 and willingly admit to setting the fire.
  • Delinquent: Youth who usually act in groups of peers and set fires to oppose authority. Typically, these are adolescents.
  • Pathological: Fire-setters who are involved in numerous fires with the behavior increasing over years. These youths typically deny involvement. They often have emotional or psychological problems. These cases are rare and account for only 5% of fire-setters.

 

Contact us

 

If you know of a child between the ages of 2 to 16 who has started a fire or has played with matches/lighters, please call for information about these opportunities for help at the Juvenile Intervention Section 713-247-8826