08/05/2009: "Children And Fire"
By Robert Low
In 2006, an estimated 14,500 child-playing structure fires were reported to U.S. municipal fire departments, with associated losses of 130 civilian deaths, 810 civilian injuries, and $328 million in direct damage. The sad facts and what we can do to change them:
• Children under the age of 5 are more than eight times as likely to die in fire caused by playing with the heat source than are people of all ages.
• Most child-playing home fires are started with lighters or matches.
• Almost half (42%) of child-playing home structure fires begin in the bedroom.
• Leading items ignited by home fire-play are mattresses, bedding, and clothing.
FACT: Matches, lighters, and other heat sources are the leading causes of fire-related deaths for
children under age 5. In fact, toddlers actually cause a large number of home fires by playing
with lighters and matches. Children have a natural curiosity about fire and you can’t underestimate
their ability to strike matches or start a lighter.
What you can do:
�-� Store matches and lighters out of children’s
reach and sight, preferably in a locked cabinet.
�-� Teach toddlers to tell you when they find a
match or a lighter.
�-� Remember that even child-resistant lighters
are not childproof, and store them safely.
�-� When a child is curious about fire or has
been playing with fire, calmly and firmly
explain that matches and lighters are tools
for adults to use carefully.
�-� Never use matches or lighters as amusement.
Children may imitate you.
�-� Prevent fires by practicing and teaching fire
safe behaviors in your home. Keep children 3
feet away from the stove when cooking,
don’t overload outlets, have your heating
systems checked annually and use deep ashtrays
and soak the ashes in water, if you smoke.
(Robert Low is the San Juan County Fire Marshall)