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Most often, kids are content to sit back and watch a warm, glowing camp or beach bonfire, or even a cozy blaze in the family fireplace, from a safe distance. But for some youth and even small children, enjoying a fire that’s been safely lit by a grownup isn’t enough.

Curiosity about fire is natural; in fact, many children first get interested in fire between ages 3-5. But when curiosity evolves into fire-setting, the situation likewise shifts from the norm to extremely dangerous. Nationwide, more than half of all intentionally set fires are started by kids under age 18, causing hundreds of fire deaths, thousands of burn injuries, and hundreds of millions of dollars in property loss annually, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Fires are the number one cause of death in the home for children under age 5, and one-third of those die in fires they started. Fires set by children are an issue in our community, a common problem that has been aggressively addressed for many years by the Bakersfield Fire Department.

Why Children set Fires: 

Most experts agree the best way to understand why children set fires is to examine their motive: curiosity, experimentation, cry for help, thrill-seeking, willful intent to cause destruction, or mental/emotional disorders.

Factors Influencing Fire-Setting:

Easy access to ignition sources Keep lighters & matches out of children’s reach and don’t use fire-starting tools in front of kids; children often imitate what they see parents do.

Lack of supervision Appropriate Adult supervision cannot be overestimated.

Failure to practice fire safety Parents should teach fire safety rules so children understand the dangers of fire-setting.

What to do if your Child is Setting Fires:

If your child displays fire-setting behavior, your family is at higher risk for suffering the terrible consequences of fire. Educating the child is the best approach to changing this behavior. The Bakersfield Fire Department Juvenile Firesetter program focuses on fire safety and education. The Bakersfield Fire Department, in partnership with the Bakersfield Firefighters’ Burn Foundation, offers a quarterly Juvenile Firesetter intervention course at no cost for children ages 2-17. To attend, please contact the Bakersfield Fire Department at 326-3911 or email Firefighter Ben Henggeler at

Your Bakersfield Firefighters encourage you to contact us with any fire safety needs. For more information and additional safety tips from the Bakersfield FIRE Department, please visit

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Tags: Enrichment, Health, Parenting

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