This time of year can be busy for families transitioning back to school. The Collierville Fire Department wants to remind parents to keep household fire safety a priority whether you are carpooling kids to school during the week or relaxing on the back patio on the weekend.
Fires, burns and property damage associated with children playing with fire are common events in the United States. Between 2012 and 2016, Tennessee fire departments responded to 710 structure fires in which the primary heat source was a match or lighter. These fires caused over $11 million in total damage.
While most of these incidents are related to other common accidental house fire causes (smoking, cooking, etc.), many are the result of children playing with fire. With the increase use of lighters rather than matches, there is an increase in lighter related fires and burns.
Because lighters are easier to ignite, younger children more frequently misuse them with some reports implicating children as young as 18-20 months old. Children are often curious about fire. They see adults light a cigarette, start a grill, or light birthday candles on a cake.
Since they mimic adults in many ways, they want to mimic fire-starting behavior as well. Most child-set fires occur when children are left unattended or when they find a fire starter and attempt to imitate their parentsâ€™ use of them.
Adults must teach young children that cigarette lighters, hand-held fire starters, and matches are adult tools that can be dangerous if misused.
Children also need to understand that big fires start small.
Children should be taught the following:
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- Â· Matches, lighters and fire starters are not toys; they are tools for adults.
- Â· If a match, a lighter or a fire starter is found leave it where it is and go and tell an adult. The child should not touch it; the adult is responsible for removing and placing the item out of reach.
- Â· If another child is playing with a match, a lighter or a fire starter, the child should walk away to avoid getting hurt and tell an adult. The adult will handle the situation.
While it is important to teach children these rules, parents must also model safe behavior. Be aware of how you use fire around your children. Treat everything associated with fire with care and respect. Furthermore, if a child comes to you about a concern about a fire tool, praise them for their responsibility.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has a helpful website called sparky.org for children that has many activities, videos, and songs promoting fire safe behavior.
Children are not the only ones who need to be aware of safety rules concerning matches and lighters, there are a few tips for adults, too:
- Â· Buy matchbooks that have a striking surface on the back cover; close the cover of the matchbook or box before striking the match.
- Â· Strike a match away from the direction of the body and hold the match an armâ€™s length away.
- Â· Use matches and lighters without any distractions (medications and liquor).
- Â· A wastebasket is not an ashtray.
- Â· Throw a match away only after the flame is extinguished and cool to the touch.
- Â· Check lighters for cracks, leaks and defects.
- Â· Remember matches and lighters are very dangerous around anything flammable such as gasoline or lighter fluid.
- Â· Persons with restricted mobility or reflexes and the elderly must use extra caution with lighters and matches.
- Â· Keep smoking materials locked up in a high place.