SCARBOROUGH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — According to the National Fire Protection Association, children playing with fire cause around 80 deaths and almost 900 injuries each year nationwide.
It's a big problem that costs more than lives -- an average of $235 million dollars in damage a year too.
The people overseeing juvenile fire prevention programs in York and Cumberland counties say you used to bring a child who liked starting fires down to the fire station.
That's where a firefighter would walk them through the dangers of setting fires and explain what firefighters do.
But now, safety experts say a more individual approach works better.
Both York and Cumberland counties operate what they call youth fire safety collaboratives.
The programs provide classes to children typically between ages 3 and 16 years-old who have a habit of starting fires.
Many children are referred to the programs from the juvenile court system but some come from elsewhere.
“There's a wide variety of sources where we get referrals,” said Scarborough Fire Chief, Michael Thurlow. “We recently have set up a new statewide number, we’re part of the 2-1-1 system.”
The fire officials say parents who call are from all kinds of socio-economic backgrounds.
They say many are nervous and unsure of what to do, but there's no reason for them to feel their situation is unusual.
In fact, the program leaders hope more parents become aware it exists.
They say giving them a call might prevent someone from getting hurt or worse.
“What they may have done in the previous event, may have started a small fire,” said Charles Jarrett, a fire inspector with the Gorham Fire Department. “They don't understand how it works and the conditions change. The next fire could be a very large fire. That is the fire that causes a fatality or serious injury. That is the fire that gets reported because of the monetary loss.”
The fire prevention experts in the collaboratives say there are basic actions anyone can take to prevent fires in their home.
They include regularly inspecting your home for fire hazards, installing carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and developing and practicing a home fire escape plan.
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