3 year old child lives with mum and sister (5yrs old) in a large council estate in Cardiff.
Mum went to her local Fire Station, as she was concerned about her son’s interest in fire, he had recently been playing with a lighter. He had set fire to his sister’s hair, she attended hospital and fortunately had no lasting injuries. He had also set fire to mum’s bedding.
The Officer from the Fire Station passed on the information he had to us and asked if we could arrange a visit with the family.
Laura from the Firesetting Intervention Scheme team phoned mum and got more details from her and decided that a home visit would be the most beneficial programme to use in this case.
The family were all present for the visit and we looked at a fire safety story designed for pre-stage 1 children and then discussed the story relating parts of it to the incidents that had taken place within the home. We then showed some photos of the aftermath of actual house fires emphasising the negative side of fire. We then looked at pictures (storybook) of fires and he could distinguish the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fires (safe and unsafe).
We then practised an escape plan in case of smoke alarms going off, and mum is going to do this on a regular basis with the children. We gave mum some home safety literature and have passed on information required for a Home Fire Safety Check which she has requested. Our contact number has been left with mum in case of any problems or if she wants any more information, the visit lasted about an hour.
Three months later we did a follow up phone call and mum said she is satisfied that our visit was successful and there have been no incidents of ‘fire play’ since.
A telephone call for advice from a social worker in a Child Protection Team led to a referral for our SAFE programme.
Sam was a 15yr old male who had set fire to his sister’s bedroom (used to be his own bedroom) in his mother’s house. Sam had recently been taken into foster care and set the fire using a lighter and an aerosol following a series of family rows. No one was in the house at the time and Sam rang his sister after he’d done it to tell her. She called the Fire Service and the Police leading to Sam being picked up.
We met Sam at the local Fire Station where he continued to come for 5 sessions of input. Sam told us he hadn’t seen the damage he’d caused, he’d not been back inside the house. One of the sessions involved a visit back to the home with his mother present (she’d had to move out). Previously he had suggested that his mum could just wash the smoke off the walls but when he saw the damage he could see for himself that this was certainly not the case. Not only was the whole of the upstairs destroyed but the down stairs would need re flooring and other work done because of the water damage from the fire hoses. Sam was taken aback at the amount of damage he’d caused. Sam met the Fire Investigation Officer in charge of the incident and he explained what its like for firefighters called to and going into house fires. He also met, back on Station, the crew that had dealt with the fire.
Sam was arrested and convicted and continues to be under the Supervision of the Youth Offending Services. Three months down the line he is doing well, staying out of trouble and has been reunited with his mother. We will continue to monitor his progress for another 3 months.
Two young people were referred by a Youth Offending Service both with convictions for Arson, they had been caught playing on a building site where one of the half built houses caught fire after they were messing about lighting bits of string and paper bags, something they said they did when they were bored. The building was destroyed costing £14,000 worth of damage. The FIRESAFE programme was written into the Court Orders and the two young people were dealt with separately each going to a different local Fire Station to complete the programme. We monitored the young people for 12 monthsm, post intervention and there were no further episodes of fire setting or antisocial behaviour.
Link to newspaper article 30th April 2008