COVINGTON -- There were 15 incidents in Newton County last year of children deliberately setting fires, according to Lt. Cydnie Taylor with the Newton County Fire Service. As fire safety educator for the NCFS, her mission is to reduce those numbers and she urges parents to be vigilant in helping her educate children about the dangers of fire.
"In my opinion, the major cause of juvenile fire-setting is lack of supervision and parents neglecting to put fire tools up properly and not teaching their children about fire tools," she said, adding that cigarette lighters are the most common thing children use to set fires.
"Recently this year we've also had children setting neighbors' lawns on fire on purpose with fire crackers," she said.
There have been no major burns suffered by the children, although one child did try to extinguish a fire with his hands and received minor burns as a result.
Taylor teaches school children about the dangers of fire when she visits schools and this year will be visiting the after-school programs. But she encourages parents to take an active part in the fire education of their children, as well.
She suggested watching out for an uncommon interest in fire or signs that fire play has been happening around the home. Consider the following:
* an excessive interest in things that are burning (candles, campfire, etc.);
* hoarding of matches or lighters;
* burn marks on walls, furniture or other items;
* evidence of burned matches or other material;
* the use of fire to cause turmoil or as a result of stressful situations in the family.
Taylor said these or other signs of inordinate interest in fire should be seen as warning signs. Contact her and she will work with the child and the family to encourage proper respect and understanding of fire and ensure the consequences of deliberately setting fires is understood.
"I see children with a lack of respect for fire. They don't know it is a tool and not a toy," she said. "Children as well as parents don't understand the consequences of fire-setting, whether it's play or intentional. There's really no such thing as playing with fire because it's so dangerous."
Taylor said a juvenile who deliberately sets fires can be turned over to law enforcement.
"If they're guilty of arson and are not compliant with my program or their parents don't cooperate, I just hand them over to Juvenile Court," she said.
For more information, Taylor can be reached at 678-625-5025.