Fire Safe Scheme

This programme was established in 1995 and targets children who have a fascination with fire - a fascination which can put themselves and others at risk. To date over 600 children have benefited and it is rare that problems have reappeared.

Development of fire interest in young children

Fire is a natural phenomenon which is so much a part of our lives that, most of the time, we do not really notice it. Children do, and as they explore their environment they may come across matches, lighters and candles and see them as toys. They play with them and act like grown-ups. Not only that, young children have no real sense of danger and are therefore most at risk from fire. They are simply attracted to the fascination of the flame and playing with fire. Any connection between their play activity and a fire developing simply does not exist in their minds.

For the most part good parenting will help these children learn about fire danger and develop good habits in their play. Very clear advice about matches and other forms of fire usually solves any early firesetting experiences.

Fire Safe and fire risk children

Most young children show a natural interest in, and curiosity about, fire by the age of three. How this interest develops will determine future habits - whether the child's behaviour becomes safe or a risk.

Safe behaviour is when a child understands the dangers of fire and has some competence in safety where fire is concerned which is appropriate to his or her age. This will govern the behaviour of the child from a very early age, when clear information about matches and lighters and their dangers is given, right through to the older child who learns not only about fire safety but also about fire prevention.

Risk behaviour is when the child has an interest, fascination or obsession with fire that has not been addressed. Experiments with fire may have gone unnoticed and therefore unchecked so that "fire play" develops into a habit. Without good advice, regularly given, this habit can become serious - what is referred to as "firesetting" behaviour. It will usually start in the home, possibly lighting bits of paper and this is very often in a bedroom; this sometimes progresses to lighting fires outside using paper, grass and sticks. This is often when parents first become aware of the problem and need help.

Fire Safe programme

This programme is offered to support families whose children have a fascination with fire, a fascination that is unhealthy and inappropriate for the age of the child/children concerned. It is educational and used to inform about fire, the dangers connected with fire and the consequences that lie ahead if this behaviour continues.

Trained counsellors visit the home and work with the child and family. These counsellors work in pairs and visit as soon as possible after the reported incident.

As with any behaviour, the less well-established the problem behaviour is, the easier it is to eliminate. A young child who is beginning to experiment with small fires can be helped to change quite easily. In most of these instances, just one visit will suffice. When this firesetting continues, often over years, it will take more effort and may need more input from the counsellors.

Research shows that, "Firesetting not only can be addressed successfully but, in most cases where an intervention is made, the outcome is successful" (Andrew Muckley, Addressing Firesetting Behaviour. 2000).

How the programme works

Concerns come from many different directions - parents and other family members, schools, Fire Service personnel (usually after attending a fire), Social Services staff who work with families, and other agencies.

Through the co-ordinator of the programme, a "lead" counsellor is contacted; this counsellor will then take responsibility and report back to the co-ordinator when the programme is completed.

In cases where it is apparent that the Firesafe input is not meeting other needs, which are often complex, it is then necessary to work with other support agencies. In these cases, parents will be involved in the decision making; most will want the best support possible for their child/children. If there is already a social worker involved with the family, this will give ready access to a wider network. Other starting points include doctors, Child and Family Guidance Clinic and other support systems. In all such referrals, the programme co-ordinator is involved.

If you need any more information please contact:

Tel: 01606 868700

Last updated: Wednesday 16 September 2015

Last updated: Thursday, 6 July 2023