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2004 Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

A child's fascination with fire begins at an early age

A child's fascination with fire begins at an early age: Tips for parents on dealing with fire curious kids

Attention Editors: October 4th - 10th is Mental Illness Awareness Week and Fire Prevention Week
For immediate release, October 4, 2004 (Toronto): Many children have a fascination with fire.  It is important to understand that while curiosity about fire is natural, playing with fire can be dangerous and can be a sign of other problems in a child's life. Fire involvement includes playing with matches or lighters, playing with the toaster, stove or furnace, burning items such as toys, paper or garbage or even setting a fire to destroy something or harm someone. If a parent suspects there is fire-play in the home, help is available from counseling professionals and fire services.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has arranged for child psychologists in The Arson Prevention Program for Children (TAPP-C) to be available for media interviews. Drs. Sherri Mackay and Joanna Henderson can talk about:
The facts about fire curiosity in children
Examples of a child's involvement in fire around the home
Behaviour to watch for
How to get help
The Arson Prevention Program for Children (TAPP-C)
How to keep your child safe from fire
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's leading addiction and mental health teaching hospital. CAMH succeeds in transforming the lives of people affected by addiction and mental illness, by applying the latest in scientific advances, through integrated and compassionate clinical practice, health promotion, education and research.
For more information or to schedule an interview contact Sylvia Hagopian, CAMH Media Relations Coordinator at (416) 595-6015.
For more information about children and fire involvement, and the TAPP-C program, visit:

The facts about children and involvement with fire:
What is fire-play?
Fire-play can be many things:
Playing with matches or lighters
Playing with the toaster, stove or furnace
Burning items such as toys, paper or garbage
Setting a fire to destroy something or hurt someone
Things to watch for
If you notice any of the following, your child may be involved in fire-play:
Matches or lighters go missing
Matches or lighters are found among your child's belonging
There are burn marks on household items or your child's clothing or possessions
Your child is extremely interested in fire
Help is Available
Firesetting presents an enormous risk to children, their families and the community. Fire involvement can be a sign of other problems in a child's life. It can start at any age. Fire-play can start our small and progress to larger and more serious fires that threaten the safety of the child and the family. It's important that you deal with any fire involvement immediately.
The TAPP-C program
TAPP-C is a program that brings together fire service and counseling professionals to help families deal effectively with children and teens involved in fire-play. The fire service professionals educate children and their families about fire and how to develop good fire safety practices. Counseling professionals assess the risk of continued fire involvement and help children and their families deal with problems that may contribute to the firesetting. TAPP-C is free-of-charge and is available to children from 2 to 17 years of age.
Keep you child safe from fire
You can help to protect your child and family from fire by following these fire safety tips:
Make sure that young children are supervised at all times.
Keep matches and lighters locked away where children cannot get them.
Model fire safe behaviours, never use fire in reckless or irresponsible ways.
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas. Test them regularly.
Develop and practice a home fire escape plan.
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