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Children and fire fascination (IFAP)

Fact

Parents have a vital role to play in educating their children about fire safety. This is to help ensure that they don't play with fire and potentially injure themselves or others.

Preventing your child from developing a fire fascination

  • Ensure that all adults in the household know and understand the latest fire safety tips and how to use and maintain smoke alarms, fire blankets and fire extinguishers and how to call Triple Zero (000) in an emergency.
  • Maintain adequate supervision of your children.
  • Trying to scare children about fire, or what will happen to them, can be counter productive. Remain calm and always be honest and reasonable to children in your response and approach to the issue.
  • Understand that receiving a minor burn from fire may not reduce a child's level of interest.
  • Be aware that children watch and copy behaviours so set a good example around the home in the way you use heaters, open fires and other heat sources.
  • Teach your children that fire is a tool, NOT a toy and may be useful when used safely and responsibly.
  • Encourage young children to tell an adult if they find matches or cigarette lighters and praise them for doing so.
  • Try channelling their energies towards more positive activities such as sport.
  • Smokers are more likely to have children that play with fire so consider quitting smoking to give your family the best chance of preventing the behaviour.
  • Any lighters and matches you need to keep should be kept secure under lock and key.
  • Watch for evidence of fire play such as burns on bedding or clothing, or lighters or matches in their pockets.
  • Ensure that your home has sufficient working smoke alarms and consider installing them in all bedrooms / sleeping areas for extra protection.
  • Everyone should know what to do if a fire occurs in their home. Take the time to learn about escape plans and remember to include your children in the discussion, planning and practice.
  • This is a problem with potentially serious consequences so get involved and stay safe.
  • Teach children fire survival skills such as "Get Down Low and Go, Go, go!"
  • Children are often unaware that a tiny flame can grow into a dangerous fire.

If you have concerns about a child's fire fascination, in NSW dial 1800 600 700 or in the ACT dial 6207 9032

Fire Fascination Safety Tips

  • Teach older children how to use matches and fire safely, and stress to them the importance of only lighting fires in the presence of adults.
  • Be aware that younger children may play with fire in their bedroom

Intervention and Fire Awareness Program (IFAP)

Fire & Rescue NSW runs the Intervention and Fire Awareness Program (IFAP) which provides face-to-face and over-the-phone help for families to understand and manage children's fire-starting behaviour.

Under the Intervention and Fire Awareness Program, parents and carers ring a free and confidential service to arrange to talk to Fire Intervention Officers. The officers can also work directly with the families to help them understand the issues, suggest strategies and develop an action plan to help make their home safer, and if necessary refer them to other professional help. For further information about the program visit Safety Programs: IFAP.

If you know or suspect that your child has been playing with fire

Seek help immediately by calling the Fire & Rescue NSW toll-free number 1800 600 700.

NSW Police - Children and young people and fire offences

Education about fire and all the consequences of lighting fires may help to stop or reduce the dangerous behaviour. Children aged 10-16 are usually unaware that they may face charges relating to malicious fires. See NSW Police Children and young people and fire offences. (PDF, 116KB)

In an Emergency Call Triple Zero (000)

A collaboration of Fire & Rescue NSW, NSW Rural Fire Service, ACT Fire Brigade and ACT Rural Fire Service