Juvenile Firestarter Prevention Program

The Tempe Fire, Medical, Rescue  Department Juvenile Firesetter Prevention Program is a multi-level approach to the education and treatment of juveniles involved in setting fires. A firesetter is any child under the age of 18 who sets a fire either intentionally or unintentionally. Children set fires for many reasons including curiosity and experimentation, boredom, anger, stress, attention or emotional instability.

The program was established to help reduce the number of fires started by juveniles within our community. The program is designed to assist parents and children in understanding the dangers of playing with fire, how to prevent repeat behavior and other consequences of their firesetting behavior. The program consists of five parts: identification, education, assessment, referral and follow-up. Parents/legal guardians are required to participate in the program.

Request for services can be made by the parents or legal guardian of the child or by Juvenile Justice Court. Participation is voluntary except for those referred by the juvenile authorities.

Identification - Identification is what brings the child to our attention. This may include a child who is found to be involved in firesetting behavior by a parent, a child who has experienced an inappropriate incident with fire and the fire department is involved. If a child has been linked to a fire incident through investigation they may also be referred to the program by the Juvenile Court.

Education - Regardless of the reason for a child setting a fire, education and behaviorial rehabilitation are key to changing firesetting behaviors. Education and therapy involve providing the family with the information they need to prevent future mishaps. Parents and children must be a part of the process. We cannot expect the child to use fire in an appropriate manner if his/her primary role models (parents) are demonstrating the incorrect method.

Assessment - Initial contact can simply be a phone call from the parent requesting assistance with a juvenile or a fire investigator will attempt to contact the parent when information is obtained regarding a suspected firesetter. At this time the parent is interviewed to gain background information on the child and family history. The parents are asked to bring the child into the Fire Prevention Office. The program requires that the parents commit to two appointments within a two to three week period. During the first visit, the interviewer will need to determine if education is the proper intervention method to solving the problem or if additional help for the family is needed. If there are problems that fire safety education alone cannot solve, then appropriate help  will be found for the family through a referral agency.

Referral - Identifying the issues that led the child to firesetting and then determining the proper course of action for resolving the child's fire setting behaviors is key. These resources may be in the form of mental health intervention, parenting classes, juvenile justice or other appropriate services.

Follow-up -  Follow-up means evaluating the success rates as well as looking at client satisfaction and additional client needs. Success can be measured by the rate of recurrence (recidivism) of fire setting behavior. The non-recurrence of firesetting behavior, which usually indicates a good change in behavior, can determine the success of the intervention. Information gathered during the follow-up phase is vital for directing additional intervention.

How do I refer a child to the program?
Contact the Tempe Fire, Medical, Rescue Department as soon after the fire incident as possible at (480) 858-7230 and ask for the Education Specialist.