What is Youth Set Fires?
Dr. Robert Stadolnik’s writes in “Drawn to the Flame: Assessment and Treatment of Juvenile Fire Setting Behavior”:
Children and adolescents are responsible, either intentionally or accidently, for an alarmingly high percentage of the tremendous fire problem that exists in the United States. Their firesetting behavior accounts for nearly half of all structure fires along with a major portion of the thousands of fire fatalities and severe burn injuries that occur each year.
Juvenile Fire Setting (now referred to as Youth Set Fires) is an often complex and inherently dangerous behavior that involves a diverse population of children who display a heterogeneous set of emotional, behavioral, and environmental characteristics. Successful intervention with firesetting behavior requires the ability to coordinate a multidisciplinary array of services-including mental health treatment-that addresses the often unique and complicated needs of each child or adolescent.
Many states have struggled to implement and sustain programs to consistently address the ongoing problem of children and the misuse of fire. Lack of funding, change in personnel and competing priorities have impacted Youth Set Fire Programs across the nation.
The Connecticut Youth Set Fire Statewide Steering Committee believes combining resources and personnel between Fire Service, Mental Health, Courts and other stakeholders will improve our ability to develop programs that can not only address the issue but withstand infrastructure changes.
Each program is designed for the individual youth involved and the intent and motivation of the fire. Basic fire education is at times offered alone, but often the child and family require support from mental health professionals or the legal system to address the fire setting behaviors. The length of the program, interventions offered and who is involved is carefully assessed to determine the best approach.
The Statewide committee has designed a statewide Pilot Program informed by the Fire and Life Safety Educator Training Manual under Standard 1035.* The Standard identifies the minimum job performance and administrative requirements needed to offer an effective and successful Youth Firesetting Program. Each Pilot Program will be able to articulate details about their own program based on their resources, areas of expertise and the needs within their communities. Once programs are established we will include their program description on the website and work with them to integrate the other components.
Youth Set Fires Connecticut Statewide Steering Committee
Each year, hundreds of fires set by youth claim hundreds of lives and destroy millions of dollars’ worth of property.
In Connecticut, a state-wide Youth Set Fire Steering Committee has convened to formulate a systematic and comprehensive response to the problem of youth-set fires. The Steering Committee has brought together statewide representatives from fire services, from law enforcement, the judicial system, child welfare and mental health professionals.
The Steering Committee has developed trainings for various interested audiences, implemented the National Fire Academy Youth Set Fire training through the Connecticut State Fire Academy, developed policies and introduced legislation and pursued funding opportunities. The Steering Committee has designed and is currently implementing Pilot Programs across the state, informed by the Youth Fire Setting Prevention and Intervention curriculum developed by the National Fire Academy (NFA).
Each member of the Steering Committee brings an area of expertise, passion and commitment to the table to address this problem and offer youth the most appropriate intervention. They are committed to work with each of the Pilot Programs and their partners to address roadblocks, offer consultation and identify resources to promote successful and effective programs.