Governor Martin O'Malley, along with the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), have teamed up this year to promote arson awareness around Maryland. This week - May 6 through 12 - has been designated National Arson Awareness Week to raise consciousness of this most costly of all fires and illustrate the steps that are being taken to combat it. This year's theme is: "Prevent Youth Firesetting."
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fires started by children accounted for an average of 56,300 fires annually with an associated loss of 110 civilian deaths, 880 civilian injuries and $286 million in direct property damage between years 2005 – 2009.
In Maryland, during 2010, there were 430 arson arrests in Maryland. Juveniles younger than 18 accounted for 167 of those arrests.
Younger children are more likely to set fires in homes, while older children and teenagers are more likely to set fires outside the home.
Lighters were the heat source in half (50 percent) of child-playing fires in homes.
Juvenile Firesetter Programs offer intervention services to address behavior through the fire service, mental health programs, social services and the juvenile justice system.
State Fire Marshal William E. Barnard recommends:
• Never leave matches or lighters within reach of children. Keep matches and lighters out of reach in high, locked cabinets.
• Praise your child for practicing responsible behavior and showing respect for fire.
"If we expect to effectively address juvenile firesetting behavior, we must first act responsibly when handling fire around our children," Barnard said in a news release. "Additionally, we should teach children that fire is a tool, not a toy and to ask an adult if they have any questions about fire safety".