The Difference Between Curious & Troubled Youthful Fire Setters

by | Jan 10, 2022

When children start fires, it is usually because they are curiosity or troubled fire setters. Meaning they are either causing a fire out of being curious about fire or there has been a stressful incident that caused them to want to cry for help. In this case, the fire they started wasn’t out of an intent for damage but out of a need for help.

In both cause our job is to come alongside these kids with care and education to help them.

What is Youthful Fire Setting?

Youthful Fire Setting is a pattern of behaviors where a child intentionally or accidentally starts fires. Because behaviors patterns stem from a pattern of thoughts, you can teach children the importance of fire safety and how to cope with emotions in order to prevent tragedy due to fire. Youthful fire setting is prevalent and can be prevented. According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, “Children playing with a fire set more than 20,000 fires every year. That is an average of almost 400 fires each week”. 

Young children tend to start fires in places they are familiar with such as their play areas and their homes. It’s important to not just focus on what they are doing, rather, focus on why they are setting fires. In order to focus on the why, you need to know the difference between curious and troubled fire setters. 

Curious Fire Setters

Curious Fire Setters are usually younger children. They set fires out of curiosity, to learn, and they often mimic the behavior they have seen. For example, if a child sees his dad light the grill in order to cook a meal for the family, a child might try to do the same by lighting his toy on fire. 

Children tend to use whatever toy or material is available in order to mimic what they’ve seen. Fire Safety Education is a great form of prevention in this case because children want to build autonomy and learn, but they don’t necessarily understand the danger or repercussions of starting a fire. 

Troubled Fire Setters

Troubled fire setters tend to set fires after a stressful incident, and what they set on fire will probably be related to the stressful incident. For example, if a child is stressed about his father having to leave because he’s in the military, the child might light his father’s uniform on fire in hopes that will cause him to stay home with the family. 

Here are three main triggers for troubled fire setters:

  1. Family- a family crisis, difficulty with family members, and physical/sexual abuse are likely to cause stressful situations for children
  2. Finances- a need for money or crime concealment might trigger troubled fire setters
  3. Social Factors- inability to adapt to change, physical/mental/emotional disabilities, and substance abuse by family members all create stressful environments for children

In our article, The Importance of Recognizing Change of Behavior, we unpack these triggers in much more detail.

What Can I Do?

Even though there are many factors to consider when it comes to youthful fire setting, prevention is possible with the following steps:

  • Teach fire Safety Behaviors 
  • Control access to fire. Keep matches and lighters out of reach.
  • Set a good example. Practice using fire safety behaviors.
  • Pay attention to underlying causes that may motivate a child to set fires. 

First Response is dedicated to the safety of your children. We teach about the difference between curious and troubled fire setters in our fire safety courses. Learn more about how to sign up for fire safety courses here

About First Response

First Response provides CPR, First Aid, and Fire Safety training to clients across Georgia and South Carolina for over 23 years. We believe training should be relevant, informative, and fun! Feedback from our clients consistently shows that they not only enjoy our classes, they learn something new–even for folks that have taken the class many times before.

Contact us to book a class for your facility, or sign up for a class here.

About the Author

<a href="" target="_self">Holly Janco</a>

Holly Janco

CPR, First Aid, and Fire Safety Instructor

Holly has been teaching CPR and First Aid with First Response since May of 2021. She also works for 12Stone Church at a Kid Pastor Resident where she is training to be a Kids Pastor. Holly is also a certified early education and ESOL teacher. Her unique perspective and experience on kids helps shape the articles she writes.

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