Youth Fire Prevention and Intervention Program

If your child is interested in or experimenting with fire, please fill out this form and email it to, or call 410-313-0537. If you feel yourself or others are in immediate danger, please call 911.

Children are naturally curious about fire. Most children experience fire interest between the ages of three to five. They may begin to ask questions about the physical properties of fire, or through their play. This curiosity is normal. Starting fires is not. Fire moves fast and has the potential to be deadly. Young children don’t understand that, and older children overestimate their ability to control a fire. Sometimes children start fires because they are bored. But fire play can be a call for help, perhaps there is a crisis in their life. Without intervention, youth fire play tends to continue. Youth who repeatedly start fires need intervention. HCDFRS’s Youth Fire Prevention and Intervention Program focuses on intervention and education, designed to prevent and control youth fire-setting behavior. 


Fire departments in the United States responded to an estimated annual average of 8100 structure fires and 22,350 non-structure fires each year in 2014-2018. A combination of these fires resulted in an estimated 50 civilian deaths, 510 civilian injuries and $205 million in direct property damage each year.

  • The bedroom is the most common area of origin for home fires involving playing with fire.
  • More than 4 of 5 home structure fires caused by playing with fire were started by children 10 years of age or younger.
  • Nearly 3 in 10 of the non-structure fires involved outside or unclassified fires.
  • Males were the fire setters in 9 of 10 outside or unclassified fires.
  • Over half of fire setters were 11 to 17 years of age.

Fire departments in the United States responded to an estimated average of 3230 fires on school properties from preschool through grade twelve. The fires on these school properties caused an estimated average of one civilian death, 39 civilian injuries and $37 million in direct property damage per year.

  • 3 in 5 school fires were confined to cooking equipment, chimneys, fireplaces, boilers or trash in which they were ignited.
  • 2 in 5 school fires were intentionally set.
  • Fires with an intentional cause were more prevalent in high school and middle schools than in elementary schools.


Safety Tips:

  • Eliminate access to lighters and matches
  • Practice fire safety
  • Supervise children carefully
  • Discuss the potential impact friends can have
  • Restrict access to the internet and other media

Signs of children misusing fire:

  • Lighters, matches, or fireworks in a child's room, pockets, or belongings
  • Lighters, matches, aerosol sprays, fireworks, or flammable liquids (accelerants) in your home come up missing and/or are found in a different location than where an adult last left them
  • Discarded lighters or matches in the garbage or yard
  • Smell of smoke or something burning without a known source
  • Unexplained burn/scorch marks or melted areas in carpeting, floors, toys, clothing, papers, furniture, waste baskets, closets, outdoor areas, grass, etc.
  • Smell of gasoline, kerosene, alcohol-based gels, or other accelerants on a youth's clothing or in an area they have been playing
  • Unusual items (or remains of unusual items) in the child's room or in other areas of your home or yard such as: toilet bowl cleaner, aluminum foil, plastic pop/soda bottles, candle/hobby/craft wicks, gunpowder, CO2 cartridges, etc.
  • Videos or pictures of fire misuse on the youth's cell phone, computer, or online social media and video accounts

Even if a youth has not misused fire, they may be at a higher risk for future misuse if they:

  • Show an extreme fascination or interest in fire
  • Have observed others misusing fire (including adults)
  • Frequently view online videos, blogs, or websites that have a focus on or display unsafe fire use
  • Frequently play video games that involve fire balls, Molotov cocktails, explosives, flame throwers, and other dangerous uses of fire


Structure Fires in Schools (9/2020)

Playing with Fire: Structure Fires (5/2021)

Playing with Fire: Non-Structure Fires (5/2021)

Sean’s Story

Children and Fire Safety Tips for Caregivers

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