What Every Parent Should Know: Understanding Fire Behavior

Firesetting behaviors

Fire behavior is a naturally occurring developmental stage in children. It emerges in most children around the age of three. There are three distinct levels: Fire Interest, Firestarting, and Firesetting.

Fire Interest
  • Children express their interest in a number of ways.
  • A question such as how hot a fire is or what makes a fire burn.
  • They may wear fire hats, play with toy fire trucks, and cook food on their toy stoves.
    This type of play is healthy and provides children with ways to explore and understand fire as a productive and useful part of their lives. It also represents the first signal to parents that it is time to educate their children about fire.
  • Most are young boys between the ages of three and nine.
  • Firestarts are unplanned single episodes motivated by curiosity or experimentation.
  • Resulting fires may be accidental.
  • Available matches or lighters are used
    and there is no specific material or target ignited with the intention to destroy or harm.
  • Attempts are made to extinguish the fire or call for help.
  • Feelings of guilt or remorse occur after the incident.
  • Firesetting consists of a series of planned firestarts that take place over several weeks, months, or even years.
  • These fires can be motivated by a number of different reasons including anger, revenge, attention seeking, malicious mischief, crime concealment, and intention to destroy or harm property and/or people.
  • Once the fire is started, the firesetter will rarely make an attempt to extinguish it.
  • He may run away to a safe spot, often to watch the fire burn, and possibly return later to view the destruction.