The Need for a Juvenile Fire Setting Database

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A juvenile fire setter can be classified as any youth setting a fire regardless of the reason. Many communities have programs to deal with this problem, most based on models developed by the United States Fire Administration. We reviewed our programs data to compare it with that published nationally. Currently there is not a nationwide database to compare fire setter data. A single institution, retrospective chart review of all fire setters between the years of January 1, 2003 and December 31, 2005 was completed. There were 133 participants ages 3 to 17. Information obtained included age, location, ignition source, court order and recidivism. Analysis from our data set found 26% of the peak ages for fire involvement to be 12 and 14. Location, ignition source, and court ordered participants were divided into two age groups: 3 to 10 (N = 58) and 11 to 17 (N = 75). Bedrooms ranked first for the younger population and schools for the latter. Fifty-four percentage of the 133 participants used lighters over matches. Twelve percentage of the 3- to 10-year-olds were court mandated, compared with 52% of the 11- to 17-year-olds. Recidivism rates were 4 to 10% with a 33 to 38% survey return rate. Currently there is no state or nationwide, time honored data base to compare facts from which conclusions can be drawn. Starting small with a statewide database could educe a stimulus for a national database. This could also enhance the information provided by the United States Fire Administration, National Fire Data Center beginning one juvenile firesetter program and State Fire Marshal’s office at a time.

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