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Parents urged to teach kids not to play with fire

Published: 26th September 2011

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) Acting Commissioner John Benson is urging parents and carers to teach their children about fire safety these school holidays to discourage them from playing with fire.

"It is an unfortunate fact that our fire and rescue officers see a spike in deliberately-lit fires during school holidays," Acting Commissioner Benson said.

"Children are often fascinated with fire, but they rarely understand the consequences of playing with it. Sadly, some of the children who die or are injured in home fires have actually lit the fire themselves."

FRNSW statistics reveal that from 2008-2011 firefighters attended 5234 fires suspected of being started by children (aged up to 16 years) playing with matches (3504) or lighters (1730). Of the total figure, 3709 - more than half - were grass/bushland fires.

"We don't want to see any more children learn the hard way that if you play with fire, you are going to get burnt," Acting Commissioner Benson said.

"Our firefighters regularly visit schools and preschools to deliver fire safety education programs to children and young people but we also encourage parents and carers to continue that education at home.

"They can do this by accessing some of FRNSW's online child fire safety fact sheets or visiting the brigadeskids.com website which has lots of fun activities that teach youngsters about fire safety."

Acting Commissioner Benson said members of the community also needed to remain vigilant of any suspicious behaviour and report any concerns to CrimeStoppers on 1800 333 000.

FRNSW recommends the following advice to parents and carers:

  • Practice your home escape plan with your children
  • Make sure children know how to call Triple Zero (000)
  • Ensure children are supervised at all times around fires
  • Teach children that fire is a tool, not a toy
  • Keep lighters and matches secure
  • Watch for evidence of fireplay, such as burns on bedding or clothing and lighters or matches in children’s pockets
  • Be aware that younger children may play with fire in their bedroom

"If parents or carers are concerned about their child's fascination with fire, FRNSW has developed the Intervention and Fire Awareness Program (IFAP) specifically to help them," Acting Commissioner Benson said.

Under the program, parents and carers may ring a free and confidential service (1800 600 700) to talk to Fire Intervention Officers. Further information about the program, and for fact sheets on child fire safety, visit the FRNSW website at www.fire.nsw.gov.au