Open navigation

Young firesetters

Young firesetters cause hundreds of deaths and injuries each year. Preschoolers and kindergartners are most likely to start these fires, typically by playing with matches and lighters, and are most likely to die in them.

Children and fire safety tips
  • Children experience fire interest. They may ask questions such as how hot is fire or show an interest in fire through playing with fire trucks or cooking on a play stove. This is healthy, and it is time to begin educating about fire.

  • Firestarting happens when children begin to experiment with fire using matches and lighters. Many fires happen when young children are left alone, even for a short period of time, and have access to matches and lighters. Parents must have clear rules and consequences about fire misuse.

  • Grown-ups can help keep fire out of the hands of children.

  • Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach and sight, up high, preferably in a locked cabinet or container.

  • Never leave matches or lighters in a bedroom or any place where children may go without supervision.

  • Teach young children and school-age children to tell a grown-up if they see matches or lighters. Children need to understand that fire is difficult to control, it is fast and can hurt as soon as it touches you.

  • A child with an interest in fire can lead to fire starting and result in repeated firesetting behavior.

  • It is important for grown-ups to discourage unsupervised fire starts.

  • Never use lighters or matches as a source of amusement for children; they may imitate you.

  • Never assign a young child any tasks that involve the use of a lighter or matches (lighting candles, bringing a lighter to an adult to light a cigarette or the fireplace, etc.

  • If your child expresses curiosity about fire or has been playing with fire, calmly but firmly explain that matches and lighters are tools for adults only.

  • Use only lighters designed with child-resistant features.

Facts & figures

  • Between 2007 and 2011, an average of 49,300 fires involving playing with fire were reported to U.S. municipal fire departments per year. These fires caused annual averages of 80 civilian deaths, 860 civilian injuries, and $235 million in property damage.

  • Younger children were more likely to set fires in homes, while older children and teenagers are more likely to set fires outside
  • Males were are more likely to engage in fire-play than females, as 83% of  home structure fires and 93% of outside or unclassified fires were set by boys when age was coded as a factor
  • Lighters were the heat source in just over half (52%) of fires in homes
    involving play
  • 39% of home fires involving play began in a bedroom
Source: NFPA's "Children Playing with Fire" report

Children playing with fire cause hundreds of deaths and injuries each year.  NFPA's Lisa Braxton talks about how clear rules and consequences must be established for children about fire misuse.

In This Section