Juvenile Firesetting

There are 3 types of juvenile firesetters:


Type 1: Some Risk

This is the most common risk category for children. Most of these children are ages 2-7. They imitate adults, TV, computer, and movies that light candles, matches, cigarettes and glorify fire. It is normal for children this age to have curiosity about fire. It is also important that we educate them about the proper use of fire and how destructive it can be.

Type 2: Definite Risk

A child from the ages of 2-18 can fall in this category. Most children that are considered definite risks are crying out for help. A large majority of these children have trouble in school and rarely come from a happy home situation. They may be under extreme amounts of stress or have suffered a recent crisis. The firesetting may be a result of some type of abuse suffered by the child. This child may show anger by hurting themselves or destroying their own property. We find children in this category are setting fires out of anger as well.

Some signs to watch for include:

  • playing alone
  • inability to form close relationships
  • shyness
  • impulsive fighting with siblings or peers
  • extreme mood swings
  • bedwetting
  • stuttering
  • hyperactivity
  • aggressive behavior.

Type 3: Extreme Risk

This risk category sees the smallest number of juveniles. All ages can be represented but all have behavior problems. Most that fall into this category do not think about the consequences of setting a fire. Many will have complex family issues and lack of supervision. They may also be emotionally disturbed. This type of juvenile will require mental health resources as well as education.

What can you do as a parent?

  • Make sure you have a working smoke detector in your home.
  • Have a home escape plan and practice it.
  • Teach children to tell an adult if they find matches and lighters.
  • Find all matches and lighters in your home and lock them up.
  • Teach your child that lighters and matches are tools not toys.
  • If you are a smoker, keep your lighter with you at all times.
  • Establish a rule that your child is never to have matches or lighters.
  • Increase supervision of fire-setting children. Don’t let them play alone or unsupervised.
  • Check any secret hiding places that may contain lighters or matches.
  • Lock up all flammable liquids such as gasoline, lighter fluid, or charcoal starter fluid.
  • Make sure to watch your actions. Kids learn from their parents. Be responsible when using fire.
  • If what you are doing doesn’t seem to work, or if you are afraid the behavior will continue, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Fire-setting activates can be deadly and have deadly consequences.

The Program

Step 1: Referral of the juvenile to the program by calling 540.459.6177

Step 2: Interview of the Parent or Guardian

Step 3: Educational session tailored to the child.

Step 4: Follow up session scheduled with child and parents/guardians

Step 5: Phone call follow up



Does it cost me anything to put my child in the program?
This is a free program offered to the citizens of Shenandoah County.

Why should I be concerned about my child’s interest in fire?
It is common for a child to be curious about fire. But a child playing with fire should not be allowed.

Children emulate their parents and other adults that they see handle lighters and matches.

Firesetting is not a normal phase for any child. If the behavior is not addressed and dealt with, it can escalate into criminal behavior.

Will others know that my child is in the program?
All intervention and education is kept confidential. Parents oftentimes hesitate to seek help, but be assured all information will remain confidential.

How do I learn more?
Call (540) 459-6177. We’ll be glad to talk to you more.