An eighth grade girl set fire in a school bathroom while students took part in testing in Lexington Park, Maryland.

Five Sacramento, CA juveniles set fire to an elementary school.  At least two juveniles set fire to two homes in Springfield, IL.

A New York City, NY first responder died recently as a result of injuries sustained after a 16-year-old boy set fire to a mattress in a hallway in an apartment building.

All of these stories grabbed headlines this month.

In the aftermath of incidents like these, fire fighters, fire investigators, social agencies and others connected to these cases are left with too many questions.

Why do these young children choose fire as a mechanism of expression?

According to the National Fire Protection Association, between the years of 2007 to 2011, an average of 49,300 fires involving children playing with fire were reported to U.S. municipal fire departments per year. These fires caused annual averages of 80 civilian deaths, 860 civilian injuries and $235 million in property damage. Many experts feel these numbers considerably underestimate the true scope of the problem.

Younger children were more likely to set fires in homes, while older children and teenagers are more likely to set fires outside.

The IAFF is very concerned about the consequences of not getting juvenile fire setting behavior under control and has helped lead discussions on prevention efforts and other resources.

Children who turn to fire incidents maybe curious about fire, not understand the consequences of setting a fire, or had a big emotional change in their lives causing them to act out. The IAFF urges that parents beware if their children are carrying matches & lighters, talk to their kids about the dangers of playing with fire and to keep matches & lighters out of reach, and most importantly to seek help if their child starts to play with fire.

Studies have shown that with early intervention and a comprehensive education plan, the risk of children repeating their unsafe fire behavior is greatly reduced. However, when unaddressed, it can often lead to children engaging in progressively more dangerous behaviors.

A Chicago, IL mother said she told her three-year-old little girl repeatedly to not play with lighters. Her family had to bury her in March after she allegedly set fire to a mattress in the family’s apartment.

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