Matches and Lighters - Curious Kids Set Fires
By Lieutenant Scot Best
July 18, 2022

Each year, children start many fires. Many of these fires are started with matches and lighters. Children set fires for many reasons; they may be curious about fire, crying for help, or engaging in delinquent behavior. Children as young as two have been able to operate lighters and start fires with them. Any act of fire setting, regardless of the reason, is dangerous and must be handled appropriately.

In their “Residential Fire Loss Estimates” report from 2020, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) survey of Fire Departments in the U.S. between 2015 and 2017 reported that, for heat sources:

• Involved in 1600 residential fires per year
• 50 residential fire deaths from lighter fires per year
• 230 residential fire injuries from lighter fires per year
• Resulted in $69.3 million dollars of residential fire structural damage

• Involved in 400 residential fires per year
• 10 residential fire deaths from matches per year
• 40 residential fire injuries from lighter fires per year
• Resulted in $18.4 million dollars of residential fire structural damage

While most of these incidents are related to other common accidental house fire causes (smoking, cooking, etc.), occasionally the cause is ruled to be children playing with a heat source.

Below are some facts about children and fire safety.

• Children 14 and under make up 10-15% of all fire deaths.
• 52% of all child fire deaths involve those under five. These children are usually unable to escape from a fire independently.
• Keep lighters, matches, cigarettes, and other smoking materials up high out of the reach of children, in a locked cabinet.
• At home, children often play with fire in bedrooms, in closets and under beds to avoid detection. These locations just so happen to contain a lot of flammable materials.
• Too often, child fire-setters are not given proper guidance and supervision by parents and teachers. Consequently, they repeat their fire-setting behavior.
• It is common for children to 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.
• Teach children that matches and lighters are tools for adults, not toys.
• Teach children to tell a grown-up when they see matches or lighters.

Ridge VFD urges our citizens to teach their children the importance of fire-safe habits. And, as always, keep your home safe from fire. Maintain your smoke alarms. Plan a home fire escape route and hold a practice drill at least twice a year.