Nineteen fires started by youth under the age of 18 caused more than $83,000 in damages in British Columbia in 2015, but education and intervention can help reduce or prevent this from happening. Now, local fire departments are hoping the Regional District of North Okanagan will continue its support of the Youth Firesetter Intervention Program and expand its reach to all fire departments.
Any child under 18 who accidentally or purposely starts a fire is defined as a youth fire-setter. Regardless of gender, age and socioeconomic backgrounds, these fires can be ignited for many reasons but without education and intervention, fire setting can continue into adulthood.
The Youth Firesetter Intervention Program (YFIP), which has previously been offered through the BX-Swan Lake Fire Department with success, is designed to complement fire education and prevention curriculum delivered to schools through fire departments.
It provides the primary tools that supply age-appropriate educational material for addressing child and youth fire play and fire-setting and RDNO fire halls wish to see it roll out to all jurisdictions.
“Fire incidences that may lead to an educational intervention range from a child or youth experimenting with matches and lighters to property damage at home or in the community,” a report to the RDNO’s Electoral Area Advisory reads. “The outcome of an effective program can help reduce property loss, personal injury and even death.”
According to a study, one-third of youths who died in a fire started it themselves, but recognizing these behaviours early on and intervening can help prevent damages and loss of life.
A key component of YFIP is to refer youth to counselling professions if it is recognized more assistance is required. If endorsed, the confidential program would be available to families and schools at no cost.
Currently, the BX-Swan Lake fire hall has two trained personnel able to deliver the program. The training requires the completion of a five-day certification program which costs around $1,025 per student, plus any additional student fees.
The BX-Swan Lake, Lumby and District and Silver Star fire departments have shown interest in keeping the program if supported by the board of directors.
YFIP is up for discussion at the Thursday, Oct. 8, meeting of the RDNO’s Electoral Area Advisory Committee meeting.