Grill of fire engine with American flag

Fire Department

Children & Fire Play

Every year in the United States, there is an average of 49,000 fires started by children playing with fire.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the vast majority of these fires start in the bedroom at home, and most fires that result in a child’s injury or death began as one they started themselves.

Children involved in this behavior fall into one or more of the following groups:

Curiosity/Experimentation: Children ranging from the ages of 2 to 17 years of age

  • Lack understanding of the power of fire
  • Low impulse control
  • Active learners
  • Did not consider consequences.
  •  These children often try to put out the fire.  There is no malice or intent to harm property or people.
  • Often lack supervision
  • May be one fire, or several before caught.


  • Calling attention to a problem
  • May have had a recent crisis or trauma
  • Lack of supervision and access to ignition materials
  • May be a victim of abuse
  • May have poor coping or problem solving skills
  • Rapid intervention is needed to stop this behavior from escalating

Thrill-Seeking/Risk Taking:

  • Teenaged
  • Experimenting with fire and other dangerous devices
  • Fails to think of consequences
  • Peer pressure may be involved
  • Access to items used to made devices and fires


  • Willful intent to cause harm and destruction
  • Targets are typically schools, abandoned buildings, and unpopulated areas
  • Influenced by peer pressure and may want attention

Pathological/Severely Disturbed/Cognitively Impaired/Thought-Disordered

  • Continues until intervention is provided
  • Fires may have a pattern or be part of a ritual
  • Extremely dangerous to themselves and the community

40 percent of people arrested for arson fires in the United States are between the ages of 10 and 18, and this is often part of a progressive pattern of fire play and experimentation. The purpose of the Mt. Lebanon Youth Fire Intervention Program is to stop this behavior before it escalates. Specially trained youth fire intervention specialists are on staff at the Mt. Lebanon Fire Department, and work with mental health professionals from Teen and Family Outreach to identify the best way to help. There is no cost for the collaborative screening, and all educational sessions run by the Mt. Lebanon Youth Fire Intervention Team are free for Mt. Lebanon residents. Call 412-343-3402 to arrange an intervention screening.

If you feel there is an immediate danger to the child, yourself, or others, call 911 immediately.