“Little rascal” isn’t quite accurate. Most people do not realize that children can pose a significant fire hazard in the home. According to a report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an average of 56,300 fires are ignited by children on an annual basis. Damages amount to 110 deaths, 880 injuries, and $286 million in lost value to property. Structure fires – those damaging the home – account for 22% of the fires started by children. They also incur the vast majority of deaths (100 out of 110) and property damage. Other instances of children playing with fire occur outside, which are much less likely to cause severe damage.

Fire safety engineering is always an important line of defense against any structure fire, but knowing how and when these accidents occur can help you to prevent the worst from happening. To prevent fires from starting, you should take extra precautions when children are most at-risk.

Child Fires

The NFPA study revealed a few clear patterns in fires started by children. As children approach age 6, they become progressively more likely to start fires in the home. Almost half of firestarting activity occurs when kids are between age 3 and age 6. The number of accidents tapers off as children grow, and by age 18, the rate of incidence is reduced to 0%.

It is also important to note that 83% of home fires caused by kids were started by males; lighters are the devices igniting 50% of fires; and 40% of fires start in a bedroom. So, if you can prevent your son, aged 3 to 6, from possessing a lighter in the privacy of a bedroom, you are greatly reducing the chances of a house fire.

Reducing Fires Started by Children

Awareness is already helping. Efforts to reduce the hazard posed by child-started fires have been extremely successful in the last three decades, decreasing home conflagrations by 85%, from 43,800 in 1980 to only 6,600 in 2009. NFPA has developed several children and fire safety tips that include:

  • Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach and sight, up high, preferably in a locked cabinet.
  • Never use lighters or matches as a source of amusement for children; they may imitate you.
  • If your child expresses curiosity about fire or has been playing with fire, calmly but firmly explain that matches and lighters are tools for adults only.
  • Use only lighters designed with child-resistant features. Remember child-resistant does not mean child proof.

We are happy to spread the word and help reduce the occurrence of structure fires even further.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.