For the last seventeen years of my career in law enforcement, I was involved in arson and bomb investigation, prior to that I was on a fire department. This resulted in being involved in investigating a number of fires that turned out to be started by children, often accidentally. In addition, I raised several children of my own, so I feel like I have some knowledge of fire safety and children.
Here are a few facts about children and fire safety
- Children ages 0-14 and under make up 15% of all fire deaths.
- Fifty-four percent of all child fire deaths occur to those under age 5.
- At home, children usually play with fire in bedrooms, in closets and under beds. These are “secret” places where there are a lot of things that catch fire easily.
The first thing you need to understand about very young children is that they react differently to fire than adults. When a fire occurs or they start a fire, they will often hide from it or from the firemen, for example, we have found their bodies in closets and under beds. So the first thing you need to teach your children is about exiting the building. I have seen fires in school during which the students exited in a much more organized form than a similar group of adults would have. It was because they had been taught about fire safety and what to do.
During investigations of fires started by children, it became apparent that most of them did not intend to start a real fire; they were experimenting out of curiosity. If you are a smoker you really have to be careful, your children will try to imitate you.
When young children play with matches without your control, they try to hide it from you. As a result, they will go in their rooms, sometimes in their closets and light matches. They are not trying to burn the house down but to satisfy their curiosity and sometimes to imitate you, especially if you smoke.
The first fire safety measure is the less temptation that the children are subject to the better. Keep fire-starting material secure an out of their reach. This may be a little harder for preppers, since we keep more of this type of material around that the average person.
When my children were small, I worried about this problem, so we came up with a solution that worked for my family and others. Get rid of the curiosity. We started a program of letting them start fires under controlled conditions, such as in the fireplace or in other safe areas. We took time to talk to them about fire and its dangers and how to avoid them. After a starting a few fires they lost the curiosity and weren’t very interested in starting fires. We never had a problem with our children and fire. I realize that not all children are the same; yours may require a different solution, but be aware of the problem of fire safety.