Children and fire don’t mix

Published 9:32 pm Saturday, October 9, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the sixth in a series of stories commemorating National Fire Prevention Week 2010. For more information on fire safety and prevention, visit www.nfpa.org.

For a small child, fire can be fascinating.

What many don’t realize, however, is that it is deadly.

This year’s theme for National Fire Prevention Week is “Smoke alarms: A sound you can live with,” but fire experts urge residents to take the time to educate and supervise their children, as well.

“Kids are fascinated by fire,” said Suffolk Fire Marshal Captain James Dickens. “They need to be supervised and educated as much is possible for their age. We see the cause of a fire set by a child fairly frequently, whether it’s accidental or intentional.”

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 86 percent of all fire-related deaths and 77 percent of all fire-related injuries are caused by home fires. There were nearly 400,000 residential fires with a resulting 2,500 deaths and 13,000 injuries in the United States in 2009.

Parents should educate children about the dangers of fire and remind them it is only for adults to use.

All lighters and matches should be kept out of a child’s reach, and all lighters in the house should be childproof.

The National Fire Prevention Association encourages parents to teach young children and school-age children to tell an adult if they see matches or lighters and that parents should never use fire to entertain a child.

“Because of their natural fascination, do not glorify it or make it acceptable,” Dickens said.

As children get older and learn that it is used to make campfires and barbecues, it’s important to teach them safe handling habits, how to use an extinguisher and to call the fire department in the case it gets out of hand.

One of the most effective ways to ensure your children’s safety is to always supervise them, Dickens said.

“You should always know where they are and what they’re doing,” Dickens said.

Ensuring candles are out of reach, panhandles on the stove are turned toward the wall and electrical sockets are covered will also help minimize potential dangers.

If a child shows interest in fire beyond basic curiosity, Dickens urges parents to call the fire marshal’s office.

“We have programs to assist parents and address juvenile fire-setting issues,” Dickens said. “It’s vital though to always supervise children and do your part to make sure your home is safe for them.”

Accidents happen, but being a responsible parent will help minimize the chances of one in your home.

For more information visit www.nfpa.org.