Jill Bronaugh
Communication Manager
Office of the State Fire Marshal
800 SW Jackson, Suite 104
Topeka, KS 66612-1216
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Press Releases

Getting youth fire-starters on the right track

Mende Barnett | Oct 16, 2015

youth fire starterIt is typical for kids to be interested in fire. It’s bright, hot and interesting. There is a lot of mystery that surrounds fire. 

Kids who are more than just curious will act on their impulses. They will either intentionally start a fire for the thrill or by accident, but this type of behavior needs special attention.

Children under the age of ten typically start fires more out of curiosity and not because of psychological problems. Fires set by younger children also cause more monetary damage than those set by adolescents.

Some kids set fires as a means of entertainment — not intending to harm themselves or someone else but as a way to have fun. 

Studies show that most juvenile firesetters often have low self-esteem, limited social problem-solving skills and often are not equipped with necessary coping skills. They are merely expressing stress, anxiety and trying to deal with their feelings. Typically they have some underlying issues with anger.

In order to be able to provide assistance to parents, teachers and caregivers, these fires need to be reported to the fire departments. Having accurate data helps all those involved provide appropriate assistance.

If you come across a youth who has either proven that they have fire issues or have talked about it, it is highly encouraged that you contact your local fire department.

There are resources available for kids who have more than just a “natural” attraction to fire.

The State of Kansas currently has two Youth Firesetter Intervention Coalitions. 

YFIT, the Johnson County Youth Firesetter Intervention Team, is comprised of local Fire Departments, mental health officials and other agencies assisting with the education and support of these youths. To contact YFIT, call Corey Sands with Shawnee Fire Department at 913-631-2999. 

The Fire Burn and Safety Alliance of South Central Kansas covers the counties of Sedgwick, Butler, Kingman, Reno, Cowley, Sumner and Harvey.  To contact this alliance, contact Judd Gifford at

If you live out of either of these areas of coverage, you may still contact them for information and resources or visit our website.

“Fires are not just a fire department problem but a community one,” says Corey Sands, Fire Marshal with the Shawnee, Kansas Fire Department. “It will take the community and fire service working together to lower incidents of fires. If a teacher notices a student that is starting fires, contact your local fire department for assistance. It is the goal of the fire service to offer intervention education to not only the child but also the family. This vital education not only helps save the child and their family from injury but the responding firefighter as well." 

Corey has dealt first-hand with kids who have been experimenting with fires. When Corey is investigating youth firesetters, he likes to make sure that the kids realize what the consequences of their actions can be. He feels strongly that it takes more than just the fire department to help them. It is a collaborative effort between those in the kids’ lives and the community.

Parents should talk to their kids about fire. Not all fire is bad, but when it is misused or handled incorrectly it can get out control very quickly. Teaching our kids that fire is a natural resource and the importance of it can be beneficial to them.

Kids also need to know more than the typical stop-drop and roll message. Having a healthy and safe atmosphere where kids are exposed to fire can let them still be curious without getting hurt. When having a bar-b-que, talk to them about using the grill. Campouts and even fireworks are good times to discuss the importance of fire safety.

Our office also has an extensive lending library with multiple Firesetter DVD’s that you are welcome to request.

Kids as young as four years old can start fires accidently or intentionally.  If you know of a child who has experimented with setting fires, it is imperative that you contact someone who can assist them and get them the help they need.