Children Playing with Fire
Children playing with fire cause hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries each year. Preschoolers are most likely to start these fires, typically by playing with matches and lighters.
Facts & figures
- In 2008, children playing with fire started 53,500 fires that were reported to U.S. fire departments, causing an estimated 70 civilian deaths, 910 civilian injuries and $279 million in direct property damage.
- Most of the people killed in child-playing fires are under 5, and such fires are the leading cause of fire deaths among preschoolers.
- Roughly three out of every four child-playing fires -- and at least four-fifths of associated deaths and injuries -- involve matches or lighters.
- The child-playing fire problem has been smaller, relative to population, in Canada and much smaller in Japan.
- Children also start fires by playing with candles, stoves, fireworks and cigarettes.
- Among fatal home fires started by children playing, three out of five involve children igniting bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture or clothing.
- Just over half of child playing fires in the home start in a bedroom.
- Children who start fires may be children in crisis, with the fires acting as cries for help from stressful life experiences or abuse, according to studies of fire-setting behavior.
- Store matches and lighters out of children's reach and sight, up high, preferably in a locked cabinet.
- Never use lighters or matches as a source of amusement for children. They may imitate what you do.
- If your child expresses curiosity about fire or has been playing with fire, calmly but firmly explain that matches and lighters are tools for adults only.
- Use only lighters designed with child-resistant features, and store up high in a locked cabinet.
- Teach young children to tell an adult if they see matches or lighters, and teach school-age children to bring any matches or lighters to an adult.
- Never leave matches or lighters in a bedroom or any place where children may go without supervision.
- If you suspect your child is intentionally setting fires or unduly fascinated with fire, get help immediately. Your local fire department, school, or community-counseling agency can put you in touch with experts trained to help. The phone number for the Huntington Beach Fire Department is (714) 536-5411.